Lynnwood sensor maker a key Boeing supplier

LYNNWOOD — When pilots land Boeing Co. 737s, they can do so knowing the landing gear are fully extended, thanks to a product built here.

Crane Aerospace and Electronics is one of the largest aerospace employers in Snohomish County, with some 700 workers at the Lynnwood facility. Another 200 Crane employees are at at the Crane site in Redmond in King County.

In Lynnwood, Crane workers build landing-gear sensors, among other products, for a variety of aircraft, including Boeing 737 and 777 jets and Airbus A320s and A380s. Each sensor has a corresponding target, explained Jim Hirning, vice president and site leader. Dozens of sensors are on an airplane’s landing gear and send signals to the cockpit indicating their in the proper position.

One of Crane’s newer products, a wireless tire pressure system, is gaining popularity. Aircraft mechanics can waive a wand at a jet’s tires to determine the tire pressure. It’s not wizardry or magic, it’s Crane’s sensor technology.

Crane’s SmartStem sensor in the tire valve reads the tire pressure and temperature in about three seconds when the wand is held in front of it. Last week, Crane announced that the wireless tire pressure system the company developed has been approved for use on Dassault Falcon 50 business jets. It’s already approved for several other aircraft.

“SmartStem was developed by Crane Aerospace and Electronics to provide a fast and reliable method of checking tire pressure without gas loss,” said Nathan Smith, Crane business development manager.

A similar system, which also monitors aircraft brakes, was approved in 2007 by federal aviation authorities for use on Boeing 777 aircraft. The system comes standard on new 777s and can be retrofited on older ones, Hirning said.

One of about a dozen Crane sites, the Lynnwood location was founded as Eldec Corp. in 1957. Crane acquired it in 1994.

Founded in 1855, Crane predates the Boeing Co. It employs 11,000 people worldwide. Crane designs and manufactures a range of products for the aerospace, electronics, power generation and chemical markets.

Hirning credited Crane’s longevity and success to the company’s financially conservative practices and a commitment to continuous improvement. He recently was able to lobby for several new pieces of equipment, including a more-compact, more-precise automated solder machine, which cut Crane’s solder costs by more than half.

“We’re investing wisely,” Hirning said.

Crane managers such as Hirning constantly monitor progress in each of 65 work areas in Lynnwood. Managers frequently evaluate the work cells, looking for ways to make each area more efficient.

That’s the kind of effort Boeing officials say they’re looking for in suppliers.

At a local aerospace conference in February, John Byrne, Boeing vice president of commercial aircraft materials and structures, explained the pressure Boeing and its suppliers face as the jet maker speeds up production. Boeing is looking for suppliers who can offer high quality products at a faster rate and a lower price.

“Boeing is buying the ability of a supplier to execute,” Byrne said.

Hirning believes Crane is well-positioned to do that.

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454;

Crane Aerospace and Electronics

16700 13th Ave. W. Lynnwood

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