New Cargo Plane Symbolizes Boeing Outsourcing

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A Boeing Dreamlifter cargo plane i

One of Boeing's three Dreamlifters, specially modified cargo planes being used to haul large segments of the company's 787 Dreamliner passenger planes. The Boeing Co. hide caption

itoggle caption The Boeing Co.
A Boeing Dreamlifter cargo plane

One of Boeing's three Dreamlifters, specially modified cargo planes being used to haul large segments of the company's 787 Dreamliner passenger planes.

The Boeing Co.
The forward fuselage and other sections of a 787 Dreamliner are loaded aboard a Dreamlifter in Japan i

The forward fuselage and other sections of a 787 Dreamliner are loaded aboard a Dreamlifter in Nagoya, Japan, before being flown to Charleston, S.C. The Boeing Co. hide caption

itoggle caption The Boeing Co.
The forward fuselage and other sections of a 787 Dreamliner are loaded aboard a Dreamlifter in Japan

The forward fuselage and other sections of a 787 Dreamliner are loaded aboard a Dreamlifter in Nagoya, Japan, before being flown to Charleston, S.C.

The Boeing Co.

A huge, new plane has appeared in the skies above Seattle. It's a specially modified 747 cargo jet called the Dreamlifter that's big enough to haul large sections of Boeing's new 787 airliner, also known as the Dreamliner, for later assembly.

But some Seattle residents are not happy to see the Dreamlifter cargo plane take flight. Raymond Conway, who sees the planes flying over his house, calls it "ugly and big — kind of like a bratwurst gone bad on the barbecue."

Conway, with the machinists union at Boeing, has another reason to dislike the plane. The company is using the Dreamlifter to outsource a lot of the work on the Dreamliner.

The giant cargo plane will fly whole segments of the new Dreamliners to Washington state for assembly: Fuselages from South Carolina and Italy; rudders from China; and entire wings from Japan. Then workers at Boeing will connect the pieces to assemble the new planes.

Charles Hill, a business professor at the University of Washington, says the machinists' union is wrong to think the Dreamlifter is just lifting away their jobs.

"It's not that clear-cut," he says. Making the planes entirely in Washington state would ultimately hurt jobs if it translates into fewer orders, he adds.

In fact, Boeing says it already has a record-breaking 500 orders for its new passenger jet — even before the Dreamliner's maiden flight. A lot of those orders are coming from the very countries that are contributing parts to the Dreamliner. Analysts say the outsourcing has helped to land those orders.

Union workers acknowledge that times are good right now, but Conway still isn't looking forward to seeing more Dreamlifters coming in low over his house.

"You'll see a lot of them in the air, because with 500 airplane orders, they're going to be busy, they're going to be flying parts all over the place," he says. "And it's a shame that we couldn't be doing that work here in Seattle and creating jobs for our children. So the second generation could work at Boeing."

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