Northwest Aerospace News June | July 2022 — Issue No. 27 - Page 19

Activity at the Renton site came to a halt at the conclusion of the war and it was primarily used for storage , and not just for airplanes . The most surprising Renton site tenants were elephants , temporarily housed for a traveling circus during its 1947-48 winter break .

Boeing returned to the site in 1949 to begin production of its C-97 Stratofreighter , a long-range cargo aircraft , and later the KC-97 , the world ’ s first aerial refueling tanker — both for the U . S . Air Force .
During C-97 and KC-97 production , Boeing engineers had their eyes set on the future of the aerospace industry . In 1954 , the 367-80 ( Dash 80 ), Boeing ’ s quadjet prototype , rolled out of the Renton factory and ushered in the age of commercial jet travel . The Dash 80 led to both the KC-135 Stratotanker , the first jet tanker , and the 707 , the first successful commercial jet .
Once the world got a taste for the ease of travel that the 707 offered , the Renton site ’ s new trajectory was set .
Boeing significantly expanded the site between 1957 and 1967 , purchasing the original factory from the Air Force , and constructing dozens of new buildings to support increased production . The 727 and 757 were introduced in 1962 and 1981 , respectively , and all of Boeing ’ s KC- 135s , 707s , 727s and 757s were built in Renton .
The 737 , now the most-produced large commercial jet in aviation history , moved to Renton in 1970 , and remains the site ’ s mainstay .
The first of the Next-Generation 737 models was introduced in 1997 , and demand for the single-aisle aircraft soared . To keep up with production and improve operational efficiency , the Renton site installed an innovative moving line production system in 2002 , automating airplane movement throughout the factory .
The Renton site has since returned to its military roots with a number of defense aircraft programs derived from the 737 , including the T-43A , the C-40 and the E-7A . The P-8 was introduced in 2008 and remains in production in Renton .
The latest chapter of Renton ’ s history began in 2015 , when the first 737 MAX rolled out of the factory . The jet became the fastest-selling aircraft in Boeing history , and the 10,000th 737 ( counting all variants ) was delivered in 2018 . Honoring the expertise of their predecessors , the Renton team stepped up to meet the market ’ s demand , reaching a peak build rate of 52 airplanes per month .
In 2019 , 737 production in Renton was temporarily halted , following a suspension of production in the wake of two tragic accidents . Paired with the COVID-19 pandemic , these events led to a period of reflection , scrutinizing and updating the 737 MAX and how the team operated .
Now , with the 737 MAX returning to service and the pandemic more controlled , the Renton site is again hitting its pace . Hiring efforts are at full speed , and 737 MAX production rates are increasing — and like generations past — the team is looking toward the future .
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