Utah says composites gives them competitive edge to land 777X

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING5 News aviation specialist

NWCN.com

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 8:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 20 at 8:44 PM

OGDEN, Utah -- Just outside the gates of sprawling Hill Air Force Base is a public private partnership designed to bring more aerospace work to Utah.  It's called Falcon Hill - not a site for the 777X assembly, but a location designed to drive aerospace research to an even higher level.

And Falcon Hill is just getting started - just the latest move by the state of Utah to build a large aerospace industry.

“You just can't do it out in the middle of the tundra. You've got to have all of the components that make up a solid aerospace cluster,” said Terrance Bride, business development manager for Ogden, Utah.

Bride says the state has those components, and he says the key skill here is composites.

“The demands of a growing composite aerospace industry, and that's what Ogden and Salt Lake City and Utah in general have,” said Bride.

Composites - that's what most of the Boeing 787 is made from, a  combination of  tough carbon fiber mixed with plastic resin baked into a part stronger than steel but lighter than aluminum. That's what Boeing will use to make the giant wing for the 777X.

“So we're taking our labor force that is excellent for this purpose and trying to advance it a little but further,” said Bride.

A Boeing plant near the Salt Lake City International Airport is all about composites. And more of the tail parts of the 787 Dreamliner are coming out of that Salt Lake Factory.

And all the flat land west of the mountains easily lends itself to industrial development. Can all this play host a giant airplane factory like the one to build the 777X, along with its massive composite wing?

“I would say that the state of Utah is looking for all of it. I think as Ogden goes, we have to be realistic. We simply want an important component of that,” said Bride.

Bride says one of the reasons why they really want a piece, if not the entire 777X, is to give graduates from Utah universities jobs instead of losing them to other states like California and Washington.

A lot of composites are also made in Frederickson, Wash., by Boeing. The tail of the current 777 has been composite since it started back in the 1990s.
 

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