Boeing at Hearth and Helm

Bonnie Johnson - Tuesday, September 05, 2017
Boeing at Hearth and Helm

Globally, Boeing has had a substantial impact. You will not find a degree within the compass rose which Boeing has not graced by virtue of economic impact, travel, or industrial innovation. A father of two from Seoul is just as likely to have flown on a Boeing craft to visit family stateside as a Nana from Queens may done the same. No explanations needed, we know that Boeing has touched every corner of the globe.

What bears expanding on is the how Boeing has affected lives outside of the single-dimensional plane of a map. In what other ways can we explore their contributions not just to travelling the world and our skies, but beyond that? What happens when the axis of flight shifts, and Boeing crafts nose up toward the Heavens, or submerge to the bottom of the sea?

Here we’ll briefly explore the impact of Boeing in the microcosm of SnoCo that is caught the jade clasp of the Cascades, and also what lies past the upper atmosphere, or across the ocean floor. Boeing is going further than across the surface of the planet, and we mean to follow and sightsee with them.

‘A Boeing airplane is forty-five thousand pieces flying in close formation.” – John Newhouse

Setting aside the fantastic concepts of transatlantic endeavors and global economics, here at a local level, Boeing has made massive changes. Boeing began with William Boeing, a man who had the means and enthusiasm to begin tiptoeing into the realm of manned flight when it was reserved for the elite and eccentric. The World Wars shaped a level of success and industry in our region that had heretofore been unseen since the West was plundered for timber and ore. After the WW’s came and went, Boeing knew to diversify in order to keep afloat in-between the militarily industrial complex needs, and because commercial flight organically tapers off during times of depression or in light of world events, like the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

One critical element to consider in this diversification process is that the iconic Everett plant is an assembly plant, not a manufacturing plant. The forward body, flight deck and wings are manufactured there, but nearly approximately 70% of the planes themselves are doled out to hundreds of local suppliers, and some international ones.

This process gave birth to not just industry specific talent, but ‘part’ specific expertise. Parts were farmed out to local suppliers who could be relied upon to manufacture pieces that rose to Boeings high standards and rigid tolerances. For nearly one hundred years, this has spurred the development and growth of technical colleges in our area, organic knowledge passed down from father to child, and third and fourth generational machining shops that employ and teach new generations the inherent and tribal knowledge accrued, be it a coupling finessed from titanium for an exhaust vent or simply stamped aluminum buried in a wire harness somewhere in the depths of a 787.

There are tens of thousands of workers outside of the walls of Boeing who are critical to the flight of the crafts. This massive network of suppliers diversified alongside the initiative of the aerospace giant, in two-and-five bay shops in Arlington and Mukilteo, doling out perfected pieces knowledge and high standards.

Boeing and its massive network of local suppliers makes up an enormous portion of our collective consciousness, as it pertains to our little Northwest portion of the country. When their production is up, ours is up. When the fastest selling wide body plane in history is underway, our machines hum and churn out dollars and livelihoods. Your first summer job may likely have been sweeping up scrap or learning your way around a caliper for the first time, for dollars in spending cash to turn back ‘round and drop into the local economy.

Boeing has been there, from your first job to your last gold watch, and is integral to our history and future, be it clad in a blue coverall or boardroom attire.


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