Boeing To Lease Washington Airport

Officials said Boeing plans to sign a 40-year lease for the aerospace company to use Renton Municipal Airport, next to Boeing's 737 assembly plant.

RENTON, Wash. (AP) -- Officials from The Boeing Co. and the city of Renton plan to sign a 40-year lease for the aerospace company to use Renton Municipal Airport, next to Boeing's 737 assembly plant.

A city news release said the signing ceremony will take place Wednesday.

Industry analysts have speculated Boeing might be considering a new assembly plant for any plane to succeed the workhorse 737. Much of the 737 is built in Wichita, Kan., and Boeing announced last fall that it would open an assembly line for its new 787 jetliner in South Carolina, in addition to the one at its Everett, Wash., plant.

However, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh said in a March interview with Seattle television station KING that it's committed to keeping the Renton plant open for a long time if it can reach favorable agreements with its labor unions.

Albaugh said Boeing wouldn't split production in two cities on other programs like it has done with the 787.

"Do we have a strategy where we have two lines everyplace? That's not a strategy we've talked about. That's a strategy that would cost us a lot to implement," he said.

He added that Boeing has no plans to move its Renton operations to Everett.

Officials at Chicago-based Boeing will decide by the end of this year whether to build a new aircraft or revamp the existing 737 design with newer engines with higher fuel efficiencies, Albaugh said.

"We are going to re-engine or go with a new airplane," he told KING. "It would be crazy for us to walk from all the learning we have in Renton and go to another site."

The first 737 rolled out of the Renton factory in January 1967. Boeing has received more than 8,400 orders for all models of the twin-engine plane from more than 80 customers worldwide. It has a backlog of more than 2,000 737 orders and announced Monday it will increase Renton production from 31.5 a month to 34 a month in early 2012.

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