Boeing is set to transfer customer support for all current production aircraft—except for the 787—to its recently created Southern California Engineering Design Center, as part of the company’s long-term strategy to diversify commercial aircraft engineering beyond the borders of its home state of Washington.
The move, which also includes commercial product support for the KC-46A tanker for the U.S. Air Force and the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft for the U.S. Navy, will trigger the transfer of around 1,000 engineering jobs from Seattle to Southern California by the end of 2015. Under the first phase of the plan, announced in May 2013, Boeing consolidated support in California for out-of-production Renton-developed models—including the 707, 727, 737-100/-200/-300/-400/-500 and 757—with that for the Long Beach-developed Douglas DC-8, DC-9, DC-10 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80, MD-90, MD-11 and MD-95/717.
The transition, which was completed earlier this year, will now be followed by the transfer of support for the Next-Generation 737, 747, 767 and 777 models, as well as the KC-46 and P-8 military derivatives. Support for the 787 will continue to be based in the Puget Sound area for a number of years while reliability continues to improve and as Boeing introduces the 787-9 and 787-10 derivatives. The support of the yet-to-be introduced 737 MAX and 777X will similarly remain in Seattle until at least the early 2020s.
Lynne Thompson, vice president of Customer Support for Boeing Commercial Aviation Services says as well as aligning resources in a single location, the transfer “will allow us to tap into existing engineering talent in California.” The Southern California Engineering Design Center at Long Beach and Seal Beach currently employs about 1,800, and this will grow by around 1,000 over the next two years. Boeing says “of the affected employees in Washington, many will be offered positions with other programs in the Puget Sound area. In addition, employees will have opportunities to apply for new positions in California.”
News of the next phase of the commercial support transition plan comes just days after Boeing announced it will shut the C-17 production line in Long Beach in mid-2015, three months earlier than anticipated. The closure affects around 2,200 employees in Southern California, as well as some 300 each in St. Louis, and Macon, Ga., and around 200 in Mesa, Ariz. While Boeing says C-17 workers will be offered jobs at other company sites, it is likely some will have to compete for the commercial openings. Boeing adds, however, that retirement and attrition also will reduce the number of layoffs required in the wake of the C-17 closure.
While the California site focuses primarily on aftermarket support, the other engineering centers established in Puget Sound and Charleston, S.C., will focus on new developments. The Washington state facility will support the development of future aircraft, and technologies such as large-scale composite wings, while Charleston will focus on large-scale composite fuselage structures and propulsion-related structures.