Composites may be the key to get Boeing to build its 7E7 plant in Tulsa

Wednesday, July 9th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

More than a dozen states are in a mad scramble to get Boeing's new 7E7 assembly plant, including Oklahoma. Of course, Tulsa already has one Boeing plant, a parts plant. What role, if any, could it play in luring a big brother, an "assembly" plant, to town?

News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg says there's an expertise here that could be very important to the 7E7. An expertise that not many in the world have. It can be summed up with one word, composites.

A worker at the Tulsa Boeing plant is putting together a composite floor beam that will later be put into an aircraft. Composites can be composed of lots of different things, but where aircraft are concerned, it's mostly carbon fiber.

Tulsa's Boeing Director Don Carlisle says they're used sparingly in planes because they're expensive, but the list of benefits is long. "It's got a tremendous strength to weight ratio, it's very, very strong. Very, very lightweight, excellent fatigue properties, doesn't corrode like you would see with metallic structures. Reports say the Dreamliner will be made mostly from composites, a first for a commercial airliner.

"Being a super-super efficient airplane, it's going to need to be fairly lightweight, and in my opinion, that's going to necessitate the fairly high use of composite materials to achieve." Officials here say the plant itself probably won't have a bearing on where the 7E7 is located, but the workforce, with its vast experience in composites, might.

“We do have extensive background, over 30 years, starting with the Apollo program and moving to the space shuttle and the work we do for the Triple-7 airplane, so great experience base here in Tulsa.”

Keep in mind that everything with the 7E7 is speculation. But even if Tulsa doesn't get the assembly plant. They feel like we're in very good position to be a major supplier for the 7E7.