PORTFOLIO | SUCCESS STORIES
We build upon our strengths, allowing our existing companies to thrive, attracting new investments, and diversifying the aerospace industry in Washington.
Since 2006, AFA has been working to protect and grow the aerospace industry in Washington. Now with the future of commercial airplane production in the state secure for decades to come, we are turning our focus to support emerging segments of the industry, such as commercial space exploration, unmanned systems and aviation biofuels. At the same time, we will continue to work to strengthen, grow and attract aerospace and related business, and work to ensure the state is positioned as best-in-nation for all future Boeing commercial aircraft and derivatives.
In 2013, AFA members worked with the State of Washington to develop and execute a strategy to ensure the next generation of Boeing’s twin-aisle, twin-engine workhorse, the 777X, would be designed and assembled in Washington. The 777 has already proven itself as the best selling wide-body aircraft in history. The addition of larger, more fuel-efficient engines and revolutionary composite wings—the largest wings ever to be fitted on a Boeing commercial jet—it was clear the 777X was essential to securing the future of commercial airplane production in Washington.
After a controversial, but historical contract extension between Boeing and the International Machinists Union, and a special session of the Legislature that made significant investments in aerospace-related education and extended the state’s vital aerospace tax incentives through 2040, Boeing chose Washington in which to build the 777X.
The 777X Composite Wing Center has been constructed in Everett, WA, and production of the aircraft is now in finsl development and scheduled for first deliveries in 2020. Meanwhile, suppliers from around the world are locating in Washington to support it.
First flight of the 737 MAX 9 | April 13, 2017 (Image Boeing.com)
Taking it to the
When Airbus launched in December 2010, the highly fuel efficient A320 neo (new-engine option) single-aisle aircraft, The Boeing Company was forced in to a difficult choice. Should it once again revamp the 737, the greatest selling commercial airplane of all time, or invest in a new clean-sheet aircraft? Regardless of that decision, it was imperative to the future of the Washington aerospace industry that this new aircraft be assembled in the state.
AFA convened a statewide coalition to help make the case. We hired Accenture to assess the state’s competitiveness to win this work and make recommendations to improve our position. Meanwhile, the International Association of Machinists, Boeing’s largest union, also began quiet negotiations with the company and entered into a new long-term contract agreement.
In November 2011, Boeing launched the 737 MAX and continues the legacy of single-aisle aircraft assembly in Renton. In addition, the company has dramatically increased production rates building toward an astonishing 57 aircraft per month by 2019.
Governor Jay Inslee speaks at Mitsubishi Regional Jet facility in Moses Lake, WA
March 2017 (Image Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation)
From Japan to Washington:
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation is developing the nation of Japan’s first commercial airplane in 50 years. The 70-90 passenger Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) will be manufactured in Japan. However, the company has established a major engineering office in Seattle and flight testing for the aircraft will be based at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, creating hundreds of new jobs.
Selling Washington Aerospace
Around the world
AFA supports the Washington State Department of Commerce’s efforts to promote the Washington aerospace industry around the world. Thanks to financial support from AFA, Washington has been able to expand its presence at international events, such as the Farnborough and Paris International Air Shows with larger displays and networking receptions.
Building the Washington Aerospace
(Image Orion Industries)
The 737 MAX and 777X assembly decisions have reaffirmed Washington’s preeminent place as the epicenter of the global commercial aerospace industry. Many of major suppliers from around the world have a presence in the state and more are coming.
Lean more about international aerospace suppliers that are choosing to grow in Washington here:
Unmanned Aerial Systems
Insitu grows in the Gorge
A wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company, Insitu has established itself as a pioneer in the design, development, production and operation of high-performance, cost-effective unmanned aircraft systems. Since it was founded in the Columbia River Gorge in the 1990s, the company has sparked the emergence of a world-leading cluster of partners and suppliers. AFA was thrilled when Insitu reaffirmed its commitment to this rural part of the state by building a new corporate headquarters in Bingen.
The combination of Washington’s deep history in aerospace innovation, varied geography and rich agricultural lands make this the ideal place to support the advancement of unmanned aerial vehicle and systems in agriculture. Washington State University operates the Center for Precision & Automated Agricultural Systems at its Prosser Research Center and is the principal sponsor of the annual Precision Farming Expo.
MILITARY AND DEFENSE
Boeing entered in to a fierce competition with Airbus over production of a new fleet of aerial refueling tankers. In 2009, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire convened leaders from business, labor and local governments across the state to provide grassroots political support to Boeing’s bid. Based on the 767 airframe, the KC-46A Pegasus would be designed and built in Washington.
After a series of awards and protests, Boeing was finally awarded the Pegasus contract in February 2011. It was this effort that led to the formation of the Washington Aerospace Partnership, which in turn merged with the Aerospace Futures Alliance in 2017 to become AFA, The Washington Aerospace Partnership.
In September 2014, Washington Governor Jay Inslee launched the Washington Military Alliance. Modeled after the Washington Aerospace Partnership (now merged with AFA) and with many of its member organizations and leaders. The WMA’s mission is to help businesses, service members and communities prepare for the economic impacts of federal sequestration and military downsizing.
One of its initial efforts was to create a Defense Data Tool that identifies specific industries and occupations that benefit from DoD contracts in Washington state and models changes in those spending levels down to individual counties. The model will allow local officials and business leaders to effectively prepare for the impacts of reduced military spending.
As much of the commercial aerospace supply chain in Washington is also engaged in defense work, this tool will prove essential to helping these firms diversify their work if US military downsizing continues, or expand if the US military grows.
WSU Leads FAA Biofuels Center of Excellence
Due to its leadership in the area of alternative fuels and significant advocacy from the state’s federal delegation, Washington State University was selected in 2013 to co-manage the FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and the Environment, or ASCENT – the Aviation Sustainability Center. This cooperative aviation research organization is funded by the FAA, NASA, the Department of Defense, and Transport Canada. ASCENT works to create science-based solutions for the aviation industry’s biggest challenges.
A coalition of 16 leading US research universities and more than 60 private sector stakeholders committed to reducing the environmental impact of aviation, ASCENT also works in partnership with international research programs, federal agencies and national laboratories to create an all-inclusive research capability for whatever environmental impact obstacle the aviation industry faces.
Building upon our rich heritage in both forestry and aerospace, the University of Washington and Washington State University are leading the nation in the understanding of alternative fuels. The two institutions are the leads for two separate grants of $40 million each that will use Pacific Northwest woody biomass to expand what has been a Midwest-centric biofuels industry into the Pacific Northwest.
The five-year US Department of Agriculture awards will help lead to the development of regional biofuels. Made from “cellulosic” biomass that comes from the stems and stalks of trees or other plants, in contrast to ethanol made from soft starches, such as those from kernels of corn, the fuels produced will be completely interchangeable and compatible with various fuels already used in cars, planes and diesel engines.
The UW-led project will focus on the commercial production of bio-based aviation, diesel and gasoline fuels using plantation-grown poplars as feedstock. The UW leads a consortium of more than 15 universities, businesses and other organizations.
The WSU-led project will focus on production of aviation fuel using mainly residue wood including wood that is typically burned in forests after harvests, is removed during thinning to improve forest health or ends up at landfills from such things as building demolitions, as well as some plantation-grown poplar. The WSU-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) includes 16 universities, businesses and other organizations.
Delivering Biofuels to
Washington’s civil aviation leaders, Boeing, Alaska Airlines, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, are collaborating in a move toward a significant environmental goal: powering all flights by all airlines at the airport—one of the fastest growing in the US— with sustainable aviation biofuel.
In December 2015, the partners launched a study that will assess the costs and infrastructure needed to deliver a blend of biofuel and petroleum jet fuel to airplanes there. The airport is the first in the nation to lay out a long-term road map to incorporate aviation biofuel into its fuel infrastructure in a cost-effective, efficient manner.
Alaska Airlines, the airport's largest carrier and leader of its fueling consortium, wants to incorporate biofuel into flight operations at one or more of its hubs by 2020 and Sea-Tac is its first choice.
Worker at Machinists, Inc. measures cone for Blue Origin spacecraft
Coalescing the Washington Space Cluster
While Aerojet Rocketdyne has been building rocket propulsion systems since 1960 and Boeing designed and built its Lunar Rover at the Kent Space Center in 1969, the space industry in Washington was relatively unheard of. More recently, a diverse collection of “new space” companies such as Blue Origin, Planetary Resources Inc., Spaceflight Inc., and Space X have established or opened offices here.
In 2012, under the auspices of the Washington Aerospace Partnership (now part of AFA), the state’s nascent commercial space cluster came together for the first time as the Washington State Space Coalition. WSSC members are collaborating and promoting the state to space companies as the place to do business, and to improve the business climate for space-related companies.
Washington's space industry utilizes the state's broad aerospace industry supplier chain.
One of the first goals of the Washington State Space Coalition was to bring a major space industry conference to the Seattle area. Recognizing the opportunity for growth for the industry in the state, the Space Frontier Foundation held its annual conference, NewSpace 2016, in Seattle. For more than a decade, this conference has been held in California’s Silicon Valley bringing together hundreds of space entrepreneurs to interact with OEMs and NASA. The Seattle conference showcased Washington space in a new and exciting way.