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From: Eric10/6/2017 3:38:17 PM
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Do not do this at home!

(and I'm a FAA Flight Instructor!)


Pilotless airplanes closer with Boeing acquisition

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From: Eric10/7/2017 9:13:44 AM
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  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business

  • Boeing jet hijacked in 1977 returns home — inside a giant cargo plane

    Originally published October 6, 2017 at 12:49 pm Updated October 6, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    The fuselage and wings of a Boeing 737 were transported in a special frame inside an Antonov An-124 cargo jet from Brazil to Friederichshafen, Germany late last month. The Lufthansa 737-200 was hijacked in 1977 with 86 passengers aboard, and after four days all but the pilot were successfully rescued in Mogadishu, Somalia. The plane was abandoned in Brazil after being decommissioned in 2008, and the German foreign ministry purchased it to be fully restored and placed on permanent display in Friederichshafen’s Dornier Museum. (Achim Mende)

    Fully 40 years after a plane hijacking that shocked Germany, a Boeing 737 finally returned to that nation last month. Getting the dilapidated jet home required taking off the wings and slipping the fuselage into a massive Antonov transporter.

    Dominic Gates
    Seattle Times aerospace reporter

    Forty years after a plane hijacking that shocked Germany and gained worldwide attention, a Boeing 737 finally returned to that nation last month.

    The German foreign ministry bought the dilapidated and dirty 737-200 in July for about $24,000 so that it could be restored and put on display as a symbol of a free society, undefeated by terror.

    Former crew members from the 1977 flight joined German government officials and airplane enthusiasts in late September to give an emotional homecoming to the plane.

    Operated by German flag carrier Lufthansa, Flight 181 was hijacked on October 13, 1977 while flying tourists from Palma, Mallorca, to Frankfurt. Four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took over the plane and demanded that Germany release prisoners belonging to the allied Red Army Faction, West Germany’s own far-left terrorist group.

    In a four-day ordeal, passengers and crew were forced to travel to Rome, Cyprus, Bahrain, Dubai and Aden before reaching the final destination of Mogadishu, Somalia.

    The terrorists killed the aircraft’s pilot, Jürgen Schumann, while stopped in Aden, a city in present-day Yemen.

    In Mogadishu, a German special forces team stormed the plane, killed three of the hijackers, wounded and captured the fourth, and freed the 86 passengers and the four remaining crew.

    The Boeing 737-200 eventually went back into service and was later sold, ultimately flying for the Brazilian airline TAF Linhas.

    It was decommissioned in 2008, then abandoned at Fortaleza Airport in northeastern Brazil.

    The plane, which had deteriorated over the years, was delivered by air in large pieces back to Germany from Brazil.

    The complete fuselage and wings were separately tucked into a giant Antonov An-124 cargo plane operated by Volga-Dnepr Airlines of Russia.

    Volga-Dnepr’s smaller Ilyushin Il-76 carried the 737’s engines and passenger seats.

    The 737’s final resting place will be an aviation museum in the city of Friedrichshafen.

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

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    From: Eric10/17/2017 9:37:37 AM
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  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business

  • Qantas gets its first 787-9, destined for very long flights

    Originally published October 16, 2017 at 5:15 pmUpdated October 16, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    A giant door opens at the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Everett to reveal Qantas’s first 787-9 Dreamliner. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

    Qantas took delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Everett’s Paine Field. It will use the planes to fly the first nonstop routes from Australia to Europe.

    By Dominic Gates
    Seattle Times aerospace reporter

    Australian carrier Qantas unveiled its first 787-9 Dreamliner in a ceremony Monday at the Future of Flight aviation center at Paine Field in Everett.

    Qantas will use the long-range jet to change the route structure of its flights to Europe, flying the 787-9 from Perth to London starting next year.

    This will be the first time the continents of Europe and Australia are linked by a nonstop commercial flight. Until now, Qantas has stopped either in Singapore or Dubai en route to London.

    Qantas’ first 787-9 Dreamliner is delivered by Boeing at the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Everett on Monday. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

    More aerospace stories
    • Boeing rivals Airbus, Bombardier join forces on CSeries jet seen as threat to 737 October 16, 2017
    • Monday Memo: Amazon’s HQ2 deadline, new Windows 10 features, aerospace and life science conferences October 16, 2017
    • Surge in drone safety incidents prompts ‘emergency’ action at FAA October 14, 2017
    • Boeing’s Iran deals hang in the balance as Trump condemns nuclear accord October 13, 2017

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

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    From: Eric10/25/2017 8:03:37 AM
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  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business

  • Boeing’s Machinists and robots start building first 777X, but challenges remain

    Originally published October 23, 2017 at 7:46 pm Updated October 24, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Operators of an automated fiber-placement machine inspect a wing spar for the 777X flight test on Monday in Everett. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

    Boeing has started production of its next new airplane, the 777X, scheduled to fly in 2019 and enter service in 2020. An executive on Monday called it “a change in the history of how we manufacture” — but the change is proving difficult.

    Dominic Gates
    Seattle Times aerospace reporter

    Deep inside Boeing’s Everett widebody-jet manufacturing complex Monday afternoon, about 300 workers looked on as an orange-and-blue robot lowered its drilling end over a long, U-shaped beam of carbon fiber composite, drilled a hole, then inserted a fastener with a soft drumming rat-ta-tat.

    With that, Boeing began building the first 777X flight test airplane, destined to fly early in 2019.

    The automated technology is such a revolution that Jason Clark, vice president of 777 operations, on Monday called it “a change in the history of how we manufacture.”

    This change is proving difficult. Production of the current model 777 in Everett, which has been radically transformed and automated to accommodate the new 777X version, has run into trouble recently, a Boeing spokeswoman acknowledged in an interview Monday.

    Related story and video
    At Boeing’s 777X wing factory, robots get big jobs

    Still, the day’s milestone attests that the 777X project, central to the future of jet-making in this region, is moving forward.

    To win the 777X for Everett, Washington state agreed to shell out $8.7 billion in tax breaks over 16 years, and the Machinists — after a bitter struggle in the winter of 2013 — had to sign a long-term labor contract that froze their traditional pensions.

    In return for those tax incentives and the labor concessions, the state won the building of a giant plane. The first 777-9X model is nearly 252 feet long, seating 400 to 425 passengers. With a wingspan of 235 feet, it’s so wide the wingtips are designed to fold upward so it will fit at an airport gate.

    Artist’s rendering of the 777X (Boeing)

    The plane, with a metal fuselage and carbon composite plastic wings and tail, will be assembled in the main Everett plant.

    The 777X’s immense composite wings — a scaled-up version of the thin, flexing and air-scything wings on the 787 Dreamliner — are now being fabricated from carbon tape in a giant adjacent building, into which Boeing has poured more than $2 billion of investment in robotic technology.

    What happened Monday was the beginning of the first wing that will fly.

    On any Boeing jet, the long spars that are the front and rear structural beams of the wings are the first parts to be built.

    While each of the 787’s spars, fabricated in Japan, is made in three pieces, Boeing has designed the 777X with the longest single-piece spars ever developed, more than 100 feet long.

    The spar for the right wing of the first flight-test plane, its first fastener installed before the assembled crowd in the spar assembly shop Monday, will now move down a very automated assembly line and have multiple fittings and pieces attached to it.

    Ribs, brackets, posts and sundry fittings will be fastened on for later attachment of wing systems such as fuel systems and landing-gear parts. The front and rear trailing edges of the wings will also be fastened to the spars before they go over to the main building for wing assembly.

    Today, about 170 people work in the spar assembly shop, a figure that Boeing said should rise to about 250 at full rate.

    An automated fiber-placement machine puts down carbon fiber tape to begin making a spar for a wing. The 777X has the longest single-piece spars ever developed. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

    Meanwhile, in the new wing-fabrication center Monday, an automated fiber-placement machine designed and built by Electroimpact of Mukilteo moved along a spar mold, its heated application tip glowing orange as it put down plies of half-inch-wide carbon fiber tape to begin making a spar for the left wing of the same flight test plane.

    It takes almost 400 miles of the black tape to make the four spars for every pair of 777X wings.

    For all the awesome, and expensive, manufacturing technology, the 777X faces challenges in both sales and production.

    Orders for the 777X have been slow over the last few years as the industry has faced a widebody-jet glut.

    President Donald Trump on Monday touted a Singapore Airlines’ order for 20 of the jets. But that order had already been announced in February, and when Boeing booked it as firm in June, it was the first new 777X order in two years.

    There are production worries too, because of recent instability in building the current model 777.

    Celebrating the beginning of 777X production, 777 Boeing employees sign a banner at the wing facility in Everett. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

    Several people working on the 777 line said that this has led to a slowdown in the work and overall production on the 777 program is currently as much as 12,000 tasks behind.

    Last week, Boeing began asking some retirees to return to work on all its airplane programs to help with a work crunch and a shortage of experienced people. On the 777, it’s specifically looking for help with wing assembly.

    This summer, the new robotic way of building the 777 fuselages — known as the new Fuselage Automated Upright Build or FAUB — which had been problematic when introduced, ran into more trouble, according to two people familiar with what went wrong.

    More on Boeing
    On three aircraft, the seals of the joins in the FAUB fuselage sections were found to be not properly cured. Engineers required that the sections be taken apart and rebuilt.

    Boeing spokeswoman Karen Crabtree conceded that this happened but said it has since been addressed and fixed.

    As for the general falling behind in 777 assembly work, Crabtree said Boeing is “taking advantage of additional time in the master production schedule to catch up on behind-work on the 777 and prepare for 777X production.”

    She said employees “will get some additional days to work out of position and stabilize the work in process” and that as a result, jet deliveries will not be delayed and Boeing will be ready for 777X production.

    Terry Beezhold, chief project engineer for the 777X, said that “by and large, the program is tracking to the plan very well.”

    “The things we’ve learned off FAUB, that have taken some time to work out, we’ve made design changes and changes to the production system and incorporated those into 777X,” Beezhold said.

    Boeing will roll out that first flight test plane next year and fly it in the first quarter of 2019, with first delivery scheduled for early 2020.

    By then, it hopes to have signed further sales and to have ironed out all the new technology problems.

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

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    From: ChristophMcLee10/25/2017 9:43:49 AM
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    Boeing 3Q results beat estimates; EPS: $2.72 vs. $2.66 (est) and revenue: $24.3 billion vs. $23.9 billion (est). It has also raised the 2017 EPS outlook by 10 cents. For now, Boeing clearly leads in orders vs. Airbus with 498 at the end of September compared to 271 for Airbus. It also has trade dispute with Bombardier where the final Commerce Department ruling is expected in December, followed by a separate ITC decision in Feb 2018. Here is the 3Q highlights:

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    To: ChristophMcLee who wrote (3288)10/25/2017 11:05:32 AM
    From: zzpat
       of 3350
    BA is the highest state-subsidized and one of the highest federal subsidized companies in the US and says Canada is subsiding Bombardier. Boeing doesn't even make the same size planes it's whining about so it's trying to stop competition and innovation.

    I don't buy or sell stocks based my personal beliefs but this is one really bad company. A bad CEO also.

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    From: Eric11/22/2017 7:35:46 AM
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  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business

  • Boeing bolsters team for potential ‘797’ with a leading engineer

    Originally published November 21, 2017 at 11:11 am Updated November 21, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Boeing has appointed top engineer Terry Beezhold to the leadership team for its New Mid-market Airplane program, which is anticipated to be its next all-new jet. It’s another step toward a likely launch of the new airplane, already widely referred to as the 797.

    Dominic Gates
    Seattle Times aerospace reporter

    Boeing has appointed top engineer Terry Beezhold to the leadership team for its New Mid-market Airplane (NMA) program, which is anticipated to be its next all-new jet. The appointment is another step toward a likely launch within 18 months of the new airplane, already widely referred to as the 797.

    Beezhold most recently was chief project engineer on the 777X program, leading efforts to complete the design of that airplane — a 777 derivative with a giant new plastic composite wing — and to introduce a highly automated production line.

    Before that, he was an airplane systems engineer on the 787 Dreamliner program.

    His appointment comes two months after Boeing formally established a program office headed by vice president Mark Jenks to work on how the NMA could be designed and built.

    Boeing’s NMA concept is a jet intermediate in size between today’s single-aisle 737 domestic airplane and its smallest, long-range, twin-aisle aircraft, the 767 and 787-8.

    It envisions a two-jet model family, seating 220-270 passengers in two classes, with a medium range up to 5,700 miles.

    One version would have more range capability and the other would be shorter-range but carry more passengers.

    If launched, the plane would be targeted to enter service as early as 2024.

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

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    To: Eric who wrote (3290)11/22/2017 1:14:44 PM
    From: DanD
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    Concept to service in ~6 years?

    The boneheads who keep claiming the 787 is some kind of clusterf$#@ or financial failure will just never get how that plane enabled this.

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    From: Eric11/27/2017 11:43:06 AM
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  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business
  • Economy

  • New CEO McAllister pushes Boeing to be ‘faster, nimbler’ as decision looms with new jet

    Originally published November 27, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Kevin McAllister, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, on the factory floor of a 737 production line in Renton on November 6, 2017.

    A year into the job as chief executive at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Kevin McAllister has had big sales successes. Ahead, he has a pivotal choice to make about Boeing’s next all-new airplane

    Dominic Gates
    Seattle Times aerospace reporter

    Kevin McAllister was plucked from the executive ranks at GE a year ago to become the first outsider to lead Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

    He has in his hands the industrial future of the Puget Sound region: As CEO he will take the lead on when, how and where to build Boeing’s next all-new jet.

    Within 18 months, Boeing may launch the plane that will become the 797. With a fresh design and a new manufacturing system, it could be built anywhere.

    McAllister knows the stakes for this region.

    Featured Video:

    Boeing 787 Dreamliner first flight (1:38)

    He grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a blue-collar steel town that suffered a massive industrial decline due to overseas competition.

    In his first one-on-one press interview since taking over, he cited Bethlehem’s former steel mills, now replaced by casinos and a retail and entertainment complex, as a reminder that “if you don’t reinvest in your future, good things don’t happen.”

    Laying out a familiar CEO-style list of Boeing priorities, McAllister said he wants “a faster, nimbler Boeing.” It must deliver airplanes on time, rolling out existing jets and developing new models. It must be a leader in technology.

    And it must continue the long-standing drive to squeeze out costs, from Boeing’s own operations and those of its suppliers.

    “We have to fund our future,” McAllister said.

    If that all works out, Boeing will be positioned to launch the all-new airplane program.

    But will it be here?

    McAllister brings a new emphasis on reaping after-sales revenue through selling parts. That shift could prompt Boeing to build more of the next airplane itself rather than go for the wholesale outsourcing of parts that characterized the 787 Dreamliner.

    In the interview, McAllister offered no guarantees on jobs or future work here.

    Yet he said he feels privileged to be “standing on the shoulders of giants, the people that built the 100-year heritage of Boeing.”

    And he spoke of Boeing’s investment here — several billion dollars’ worth of new facilities and equipment in recent years — as stamping an almost indelible footprint in the region’s landscape that will extend for decades.

    Early years overseas

    Though he grew up in the shadow of Bethlehem Steel, McAllister is not a blue-collar guy. He’s the son of two professors, mathematicians who taught at separate universities in Bethlehem.

    His Italian-born mother studied at the University of Rome and met his father when both were doing postdoctoral work at the University of California at Berkeley.

    Kevin McAllister, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, visits the factory floor of a 737 production line in Renton this month. He’s kept production humming on the line in the year since he took over. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

    While Kevin was in grade school, the family moved to Florence, Italy, where his mother taught for a couple of years. Thrown into a local school, Kevin quickly picked up the Italian language.

    He’s still fluent in Italian and has since added Spanish and some Russian, linguistic abilities that serve him well in the international world of jet airplane sales.

    Excelling in science, back in the U.S. he earned a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering. His first job was as a materials engineer at Howmet Corporation, which made metal parts for engines.

    In 1989, he joined GE Aviation as a metallurgist. During 28 years there he graduated from that white- lab-coat job to various engineering, technology, operations and management positions.

    He ended his GE career as head of Aviation Services, a $9 billion business that maintains and repairs the more than 34,000 GE commercial jet engines in service worldwide.

    Joining Boeing, McAllister took a daunting step up to lead the $60 billion Commercial Airplanes enterprise.

    Jim Albaugh, the Commercial Airplanes CEO from 2009 to 2012, said McAllister comes in “well respected in the industry.”

    “It’s a bigger organization than he’s run before, with new products, and probably more complex than he’s used to,” said Albaugh. “But he’s a smart guy. He’ll figure it out pretty quickly.”

    Two senior executives in the aviation world who know McAllister described his personal style as markedly different from that of his predecessor Ray Conner, who is a charismatic people person.

    One, a former Boeing executive who talks often with company insiders, said McAllister in contrast is “a math guy.”

    “He was known for that at GE,” the executive said. “He’s all about the numbers.”

    The second executive, a Boeing customer, summed McAllister up similarly as “a numbers guy, not a relationship guy.”

    Both these executives, who asked not to be identified to maintain relations with Boeing, said the social side of the job comes less easily to McAllister and that schmoozing with airline customers over lavish dinners produced a few awkward moments this year.

    McAllister speaks with Sam Young, who works in Final Assembly Manufacturing Operations in Renton. The new CEO has offered no guarantees on jobs or future work here. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

    Besides style, there’s a change in emphasis too. McAllister’s sales calculus includes a strong focus on getting more than just the one-time revenue from an airplane sale.

    He wants to add contracts for maintenance and parts that will bring Boeing more money over the life of the airplane.

    His experience in doing that at GE, with aftermarket sales of engine services, may be a key reason Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg hired him.

    “Kevin is going to change the way Boeing is run,” said the customer executive.

    Aggressive dealmaker

    So far, McAllister’s had a successful run.

    In the year since he took over — while rival Airbus has stumbled, falling behind in both jet sales and deliveries — McAllister has kept production humming on the key 787 and 737 assembly lines.

    And even if his personal style is different, he’s maintained the ultracompetitive approach to sales contests that Conner introduced.

    In June, McAllister helped land a big jet order at the Paris Air Show. Then this month, he scored again at the Dubai Air Show, giving new sales momentum to the 787 Dreamliner and the 737 MAX, including significant deals on aftermarket services.

    Helping him nail those contracts, McAllister has worked closely with Boeing’s urbane new head of sales, Ihssane Mounir.

    The Paris order for 30 twin-aisle 787 Dreamliners was from Aercap, the world’s largest aircraft lessor, which now has more 787s on order than any other company.

    “Without Kevin, the deal never would have got off the ground,” said Aercap chief executive Aengus Kelly, speaking by phone from Dublin this month.

    Kelly said that while Boeing’s sales tactics once lacked the intensity shown by Airbus sales chief John Leahy, that changed dramatically over the past four or five years, beginning under Conner, who brought in Mounir to head sales.

    That aggressive approach continues under McAllister, who realizes what it takes to close a key sale, said Kelly.

    “No more committee decision-making that slowed up the process of making a deal,” he said. “Boeing is now nimble, aggressive, out there all the time. Kevin and Ihssane were the two drivers of that 787 deal.”

    Alan Joyce, chief executive of Qantas Group, in August challenged both Airbus and Boeing to upgrade the performance of their longest-range jets so the Australian airline can fly nonstop on the ultra-long-range Sydney-London route.

    He said McAllister shot back an email almost immediately declaring, “Alan, we’re up for it!”

    “Aircraft manufacturing is incredibly competitive and as a customer, that kind of response is what you want,” said Joyce.

    The Dubai Air Show this month brought Boeing more hot sales success as Emirates ordered 40 of the largest 787-10 Dreamliners and FlyDubai committed to a massive order for 225 737 MAXs.

    In an illustration of the push to add services business, when Azerbaijan Airlines bought five Dreamliners in Dubai, it also committed to let Boeing overhaul, maintain and certify the landing gear during the life of its entire 787 fleet.

    Even though Airbus landed an even more spectacular order in Dubai for 430 A320neo jets, the European jet maker had come into the show lagging so far behind that it still trails Boeing in total orders for the year.

    Key airplane-sales campaigns lie ahead at Delta, British Airways and Japan Airlines. All will be keenly fought and will help define the success of McAllister’s tenure at the top.

    High-stakes decision

    Yet in Washington state, the next new airplane is the measure by which he’ll be judged.

    Before the Boeing board in Chicago will commit the minimum of $5 billion to $10 billion needed to launch a new jet program, the Commercial Airplanes team must convince them of the business case.

    They must design a plane the market wants, and then work out how to build it at a cost that will prime the sales pump.

    Getting it right will be McAllister’s biggest decision.

    It was 15 years ago that Boeing scarred the psyche of the Pacific Northwest by holding a 10-month-long, state-versus-state competition to choose the assembly site for its 787 Dreamliner, the first time Boeing had ever put an airplane out to bid.

    Everett won, but ever since the region has been beset by recurrent anxiety. Every time a new airplane program has popped up, so has the question of where it will be built.

    Albaugh, who grew up in Eastern Washington, was a vocal champion of Boeing’s local engineering prowess and the skills of its production workforce.

    Albaugh picked Charleston, S.C., for the 787 Dreamliner’s second final assembly line in 2009. But he also signed a long-term contract agreement with the Machinists union in 2011 that secured the 737 MAX for Renton.

    Then, Seattle-born Conner, who climbed through Boeing’s ranks from mechanic to succeed Albaugh as CEO, led the decision on where the 777X would be built.

    In 2014, Everett won again. But this time the local success was darkened by an acrimonious struggle with the Machinists union, whose members were forced to give up their traditional pensions to win the prize.

    Next up, McAllister.

    An indication of a shift in thinking for the next new airplane was described by the customer executive who asked not to be named.

    Early this year, McAllister asked for a presentation on what it had cost Boeing, in work hours and dollars, to support one of its 787 partners when that company ran into trouble supplying its part of the plane some years ago.

    When the answer came back, it wasn’t far short of the total capital value of the supplier partner. McAllister’s response: Instead of putting all that money in, we could have bought that company.

    If Boeing had done so, now that the 787 program is running smoothly, it would have reaped the benefit of providing spares for the parts of the airplane that are still supplied by that partner.

    That way of thinking clearly provides an incentive for Boeing to keep more work in-house on future aircraft, rather than outsourcing.

    Yet for now, McAllister keeps the plan for the next new airplane close and offers no guarantees.

    After a steady decline in local Boeing employment, with more than 20,000 jobs cut in the last five years, he remains noncommittal on where employment here is headed in the near term.

    “Employment will come out in some (work) areas, and go up in others,” he said.

    McAllister is certainly impressed by the local workforce’s productivity efforts, which he said allow Boeing to sell more airplanes and so to add more jobs.

    He marvels at the huge automation projects that have been completed on the 737 line in Renton without a pause in the accelerating production rates there, even as the new model 737 MAX was simultaneously introduced.

    And though the latest robotic technology being introduced in Everett for the 777X has run into problems, he says engineers are fixing them as they go.

    “We are going through the biggest industrial transformation in the company,” McAllister said. “When you take on things of that scale, you encounter tough challenges, and we’ve had them. But we’re getting through them.

    “When we have issues, we swarm at them early,” he said.

    He pointed to those enormous local investments, in the automation of production in Renton and especially the $1 billion-plus 777X wing fabrication center in Everett, by way of long-term reassurance.

    “When we invest in a factory, it’s for an airplane with a 20-year life cycle. These are big-footprint investments in the future,” McAllister said. “We have invested more in the Puget Sound than anyplace else in the world.”

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

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    From: Eric12/6/2017 7:05:05 AM
       of 3350
  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business

  • MTorres aims to take carbon-fiber technology for jets to the next level

    Originally published December 5, 2017 at 8:04 pm Updated December 5, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    At the new MTorres facility in Everett, Christopher Forbis, applications control engineer, hooks up a motor on a section of Boeing 777X spar assembly equipment. The plant’s grand opening is next week. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

    Engineering firm MTorres, a maker of sophisticated aerospace manufacturing equipment, opened a new innovation and manufacturing center near Boeing’s jet plant in Everett. It’s developing a novel manufacturing method to produce one-piece carbon-fiber fuselages without fasteners.

    Dominic Gates
    Seattle Times aerospace reporter

    Spanish engineering company MTorres arrived in the Pacific Northwest two years ago to compete for a bigger share of the vast American aerospace market for advanced, automated manufacturing equipment.

    It’ll have a grand opening next week of a big new facility in Everett where it develops innovative technology for nearby Boeing and other customers.

    For example, it produced the robotic manufacturing cells inside Boeing’s newest “spar shop” in Everett that drill and fasten stiffeners and rib posts to the long spars for the 777X wings, the largest ever on a commercial jet.

    But MTorres is looking much further down the runway with its ideas.

    Even as it builds additional equipment to produce those 777X spars, it has also come up with a bold plan to build one-piece carbon-fiber fuselages without the metal joinery and support used on current planes like the mostly composite 787 Dreamliner.

    It’s a technology that could transform airplane making.

    The first demo piece, a large, complexly curved one-piece composite airplane fuselage that contained not a single fastener, was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June.

    The technique could likewise be used to produce other large composite airplane structures such as wings, or vehicles in the defense or space-launch sectors.

    In fact, the original idea was to start with making an airplane wing, and so the technology is dubbed Torres­Wing.

    It’s not a near-term project. MTorres executives freely admit it’s a proof-of-concept endeavor, a technology proving ground that may take years to become an industrialized reality.

    Still, TorresWing presents a startling vision of the future.

    An animated video shows how a complete factory could be designed to mass-produce such fuselages. It shows cells of fully automated equipment fabricating complete one-piece fuselages — all done by robots moving in a tight ballet and producing a finished carbon-fiber structure without a single rivet or fastener or any metal.

    The fuselages include stiffening stringers, structural frames and floors, all integral to the structure.

    The project brings together MTorres’ expertise in designing robotic equipment for laying down carbon fiber, its experience in creating highly automated assembly cells for putting a structure together, and innovation it has developed in the carbon-fiber material used.

    Eduardo Torres, chairman of MTorres America, said the aim is “to show what MTorres is capable of.”

    “We are a unique company,” he said. “Nobody has this combination of expertise in materials and automation.”

    Joseba Perez, left, managing director, and Eduardo Torres, chairman, display a scale model of a carbon-fiber aircraft fuselage at the new MTorres facility in Everett. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

    New facility in Everett

    MTorres already is a world leader in equipment used to make carbon-fiber composite structures.

    Its automated machines fabricate the wings of the all-composite Airbus A350 twin-aisle jet, the fuselage section of Boeing’s all-composite 787 Dreamliner built by Kawasaki in Japan, the tail of the 787 built in Salt Lake City, and the wings of the forthcoming MS-21 jet built by Irkut of Russia.

    Its newly built innovation and advanced manufacturing center close to Boeing’s Everett jet plant is a 70,000-square-foot facility with room to expand, representing an investment of about $17 million.

    The “grand opening” will be attended by local government officials and current and potential customers — including Boeing but also Northrop Grumman, with whom MTorres is discussing possible contracts on the new B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, and Blue Origin, a possible candidate for equipment to build space rockets.

    Not far away from its new location, on the west side of Paine Field, is the local engineering champion of automated aerospace equipment and MTorres’ rival, Electroimpact of Mukilteo.

    So far, Electroimpact is more than holding its own. On Boeing’s new 777X, Electroimpact won the biggest contracts.

    MTorres won three big secondary 777X contracts.

    Boeing showcased one of those in October when it began production of the first 777X inside its new “spar shop.”

    On Tuesday, inside the new MTorres manufacturing facility, mechanics were putting together another spar assembly line in preparation for the 777X production ramp-up.

    Still, MTorres’s growth here has been slower than hoped. It now has 120 employees, only a handful more than two years ago.

    Joseba Perez, managing director of the new facility, said MTorres America still aims to increase employment to about 175.

    He said the company has won new projects worth $30 million this year and expects to close an additional $10 million soon.

    Beyond that, MTorres of course has its eye on Boeing’s potential launch of an all-new 797 that promises to be a gold mine of new automated manufacturing equipment.

    Revolutionary technology Mark Cumm, MTorres vice president of sales and marketing, conceded that the futuristic TorresWing project is probably further out than even the 797.

    He said the company has pitched the technology concept to both Airbus and Boeing, as well as to manufacturers of smaller planes.

    Engineering firm MTorres opened a new innovation and manufacturing center near Boeing’s jet plant in Everett. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

    Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was a huge innovation in airplane manufacturing, with a radically new fuselage made from carbon-fiber composites in large single-piece, barrel-shaped sections.

    However, these sections are essentially only the airplane’s skin, which must be structurally reinforced internally by circular frames and longtitudinal stringers at intervals. Each of these separate sections are then joined into complete 787 fuselages with more fasteners and carbon fiber at the joins.

    The TorresWing concept would avoid the need for the internal structural reinforcement of this shell.

    While the 787 fuselage barrels are fabricated by laying carbon-fiber tape down onto massive molds that are removed from inside the barrel after it is cured in a high-pressure oven called an autoclave, TorresWing’s innovative technique dispenses with these big molds.

    Instead, robotic machines first take a pair of circular composite frames and, using flexible molds, lay fiber between them to produce short fuselage sections that look like broad rings rather than barrels.

    These rings are bonded together to create a complete but very thin-skinned fuselage, just five or six plies of carbon fiber — about one twentieth of an inch thick — though with lines of thicker material that will serve as stiffeners.

    Once this initial piece is cured to hardness, it’s used as the mold on top of which the exterior skin of the airplane is laid down in many more plies of carbon fiber.

    The initial piece is never removed and becomes the internal framework that adds structural strength to the outer skin.

    Another innovation is that the curing is done in an unpressurized oven, not in a much more expensive autoclave.

    To achieve that, MTorres developed its own proprietary preparation process for the carbon-fiber material, which is laid down dry, like textile.

    A thermoplastic powder that’s activated by heat is integrated into the material so that these dry layers of carbon fiber become tacky and hold in place when laid over one another.

    Instead of the hardening epoxy resin being infused into the carbon fiber, it’s added at the curing stage.

    Javier Raya, MTorres sales-operations manager, said that since carbon fiber was first introduced, it’s often been assembled as if it were “black aluminum,” using the same manufacturing techniques developed to build metal planes: many components drilled and fastened together.

    He believes the Torres­Wing project for the first time moves toward a method truly designed for this material, saving the weight of all those joins.

    Chairman Eduardo Torres said it’s possible that whatever emerges from the project to be implemented inside factories may look completely different from the current concept.

    But the goal is along the way to develop new, useful automation and materials technologies.

    “The plan is to continue to prove out the technology and move toward industrialization,” said Cumm.

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

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