Boeing has determined it can assemble the re-engined 737 Max where the current family of Next Generation 737s is currently built -- in the crowded Renton, Washington facility.
Beverly Wyse, 737 programme vice president and general manager, said a potential third line for the Max would be placed in Renton with the two existing lines by relocating engine, empennage and line work staging areas currently positioned between Line 1 and a mezzanine that runs the length of the building.
Commercial production at the Renton facility is currently split between two lines in the 4-481 building. Line 1, the wider of the two lines, would likely play host to the conceptual Line 3 for the 737 Max.
With a third line capable of 21 aircraft per month, Wyse said that over time 737 production rates could climb to 60 aircraft per month, which includes the 737 Max.
The relocated functions would be moved elsewhere in building or nearby. Eventually, 737 Max production would overtake the two existing 737 NG lines as production accelerates, though concurrent production of each family could eventually take place on each line.
The Max line, like the other two, would have a potential capacity of 21 aircraft per month, and would initially start as a dedicated final assembly line for the new re-engined aircraft due for first delivery in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Following the Renton selection for 737 Max final assembly, many speculated Boeing would most likely either build a third line in the so-called "saw-tooth" building (named for its jagged roofline) where the P-8A Poseidon, a heavily modified 737-800, is assembled.
A third 737 line would have been likely to have shared commercial production with the P-8A or may have shifted the P-8 final assembly to Boeing Field in nearby Seattle.
It will be one to two years before Boeing makes a final decision on exactly where at the Renton plant the 737 Max will be assembled. Both Wyse and a union official said building the 737 Max alongside the 737NG seems most likely.
Wyse's comments came during an informal press conferences following a celebration at the Renton factory of the 737 production advancing from 31.5 to 35 aircraft per month, a record for the programme.
737 production rates are accelerating to 38 per month in 2013 and 42 per month in 2014.