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Originally published September 3, 2013 at 12:27 PM | Page modified September 3, 2013 at 5:54 PM

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Boeing moves advanced-concepts engineering to California

Boeing is shifting more engineering jobs from Washington state to Southern California, the latest in a series of such changes that could see hundreds of jobs moving away.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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Boeing is shifting more engineering jobs from Washington state to Southern California, the latest in a series of such changes that could see hundreds of jobs moving away.

Mike Delaney, head of engineering at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, announced internally last week that the team working on advanced-concept airplanes will move by year-end to the commercial-jet unit’s growing engineering-design center in the Los Angeles area.

The team’s focus is futuristic airplane ideas, such as supersonic or low-emission jets, that may be developed a decade or more from now.

About 60 engineers from various groups within the Puget Sound area do that work today, though many of them also have other responsibilities.

Boeing spokesman Bret Jensen said the company will set up a group of 20 to 30 full-time engineers in Southern California dedicated solely to advanced concepts.

“We don’t think it will have that much of an effect here,” Jensen said.

In his note to the engineering team last week, Delaney said the shift lets Boeing “consolidate all advanced-concepts design efforts in one location with a dedicated team.” He added that the move “will also improve our ability to recruit into these specialized jobs by giving us greater access to a diverse experience base of people, universities and other industries in the region.”

In May, Delaney announced Boeing would pursue “a more geographically diverse manufacturing and engineering footprint.”

He said then that Boeing, which historically had the vast majority of its commercial- airplane-engineering expertise in Washington state, would in the future split it among three domestic engineering-design centers — adding capacity in Southern California and South Carolina and reducing it here — and its major overseas engineering-design center in Moscow.

At that time, Delaney announced the first two such moves. Most engineering-support operations on out-of-production jets, such as the 757 and 737 classics, would move from Tukwila to Long Beach, Calif., affecting as many as 300 jobs.

And design and assembly of the 737 MAX nacelles (engine pods) was placed in South Carolina, the first non-787 Dreamliner work to be there. Boeing has picked a site to build a 220,000-square-foot factory to do that 737 MAX work next door to its 787 interiors facility in North Charleston.

On the current 737 jet that work is done by a supplier, not Boeing, but the 737 team in Renton had expected to get the jobs when it was brought in-house.

Then in July, Boeing announced that aftermarket-engineering tasks on modifying jets for customers and converting aging passenger jets to freighters will move from Bellevue and Everett to Long Beach.

Approximately 375 employees currently do that work here. Boeing’s white-collar union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), expects more than half may lose their jobs.

SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth said that while there is concern within the commercial-airplanes unit about work leaving the area, local employees on Boeing’s defense side feel even more threatened.

“The company has been moving work on defense projects out for some time, and that is continuing,” Goforth said.

Separately, Boeing’s Information Technology department — not part of the commercial-airplanes unit — announced in March it will shed 1,500 positions in the Puget Sound region over the next three years, moving work to new IT centers in North Charleston, S.C. and St. Louis.

Boeing today has approximately 1,200 engineers at the Southern California design center and about 1,000 in South Carolina. Both centers are expected to expand over the next several years.

Boeing filings with Washington state show that as of the end of 2011 the company had more than 16,000 engineers in the Puget Sound area, the vast majority of those in the commercial-airplanes unit.

Boeing spokesman Bret Jensen said it isn’t clear how many jobs will be lost here from shifting various pieces of engineering work, since some engineers may choose to move to one of the new design centers or may find work elsewhere within Boeing in the area.

“We have to wait for the dust to settle before we really know,” Jensen said.

He added that the shift of engineering work is not over: “We probably will see more changes in the future.”

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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