A look inside one new 787 factory
Aerospace giant Goodrich's new 787 facility in Everett is a showcase for the benefits and the limitations of the new aerospace work the...
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
Building the Dreamliner
Aerospace giant Goodrich's new 787 facility in Everett is a showcase for the benefits and the limitations of the new aerospace work the region aspires to attract.
The only newly built production factory in the state doing 787 work, this $20 million, 140,000-square-foot facility has state-of-the-art manufacturing technology.
But the workforce at peak is expected to be only twice its current size of about 40 people.
Many of the new hires for the nonunion, mostly blue-collar jobs are young women with no experience in aerospace.
Because the facility is so new, Goodrich has not yet had to report to the state what it pays workers at the plant. A company spokesman declined to disclose wage rates, but one new hire said the entry-level starting pay is between $10 and $13 per hour.
Workers here connect the pods that surround the engines to the engines themselves, which come in from Rolls-Royce and GE. The pods, or nacelles, are technically complex, light yet enormously strong — able to contain a whirring engine blade that breaks off in flight.
The workers here also build one of the four major sections of the engine pod: the smooth, precision-manufactured, barrellike inlet, some 12 feet in diameter. The composite skin of the inner surface has thousands of tiny holes designed to absorb the engine noise.
On a factory visit in May, Loan Shima, 29, worked at a big circular fixture, installing temporary rivets to hold together the pieces of the aluminum inlet. An expensive automatic riveting machine later installs permanent fasteners to precise tolerances, flush with the surface.
Previously, Shima worked for more than eight years assembling consumer electronics. Like all the other new hires, she was sent to Goodrich's Gulf Coast plant in Foley, Ala., for two weeks of initial training and certification. She called home every day to her two little daughters.
In another corner of the large factory, workers assemble the engine pods — adding the inlet at the front and the exhaust system at the back to the engines that come in.
Each engine glides around the floor on a custom-built hovercraft. "This air-bearing thing slips underneath it, and you just energize it and it floats on a cushion of air," said David Kaupke, 51, general manager of the facility.
This assembly must be done in a matter of days so that the expensive engines, with a list price of about $17 million each, can move quickly across to Boeing's final assembly plant and onto the airplane.
In November, Goodrich sold its nearby aircraft heavy-maintenance operation, which employs about 1,200 people at Paine Field, but the new 787 facility and an older Goodrich landing-gear-integration plant next door that employs 38 people are unaffected.
In line with most other airplane-parts manufacturers in the state, Goodrich is firmly nonunion. "I'd be very surprised if people that had a very strong union belief or background would even want to go to a place that's nonunion," Kaupke said.
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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