All smiles at Boeing on the 767 line

EVERETT — There was no shortage of smiles and cheers inside the Boeing Co.’s Everett factory the day after the company won a multibillion-dollar Air Force tanker contract.

“I cannot wipe the smile off my face,” said Maureen Dougherty, vice president of the tanker program.

But what Bo

eing workers, company executives and politicians really were celebrating Feb. 25 was the future.

“Let’s hear it for everyone who will retire working on this airplane,” said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., about Boeing’s 767.

Boeing’s win of the Air Force tanker contract will keep the 767 production line up and running in Everett into the next decade. The company will supply 179 767-based tankers, which will replace the Air Force’s aging KC-135 tankers. The contract is worth at least $30 billion, depending on upgrades.

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who addressed the crowd over the phone, delivered more good news. After talking with Air Force and Defense Department officials Friday morning, “they’re convinced that Airbus will probably not protest,” Dicks said. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

The parent company of Airbus, EADS had offered the Air Force its larger A330-based tanker, which would have been built in Mobile, Ala. The Air Force has 10 days from Feb. 24 to brief EADS on its decision, and the European company has 10 days after that to protest the award. Therefore, Boeing and its workers could have to wait a few more weeks to find out if their good news will stick.

“It’s the kind of positive news that can turn an economy around,” said Ray Stephanson, Everett’s mayor.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., agreed.

“There is no better economic news than local jobs,” she said.

Boeing has said its tanker will support 11,000 jobs in Washington state, although those won’t all be newly created jobs. Rather, the tanker program will preserve the 767 work force once its commercial orders run out, which could happen in 2013. On the commercial side, Boeing is introducing its mostly composite 787 Dreamliner, which ultimately will replace the 767.

“A lot of us were sweating whether we’d have jobs in a couple years,” said Gary Ottinger, a manufacturing engineer on the 767 program, who joyfully showed off his Team 767 rally towel. “Now, it’s no big deal. We can get my son or daughter in here working.”

Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, said the company hired several thousand new employees last year as it ramped up production on its existing jet lines. As it production continues to increase and as the company begins development work on the tanker, “we’re going to hire several thousand employees this year.”

Albaugh and Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney mingled with 767 workers, shaking hands and thanking the employees for what they do. In his former position as head of Boeing’s defense unit, Albaugh has been involved in Boeing’s lengthy battle to win the Air Force tanker contract for much of the last decade.

“In the history of the Boeing Co., there are always a few dates everyone remembers,” he said. Recent dates include Dec. 15, 2009, the first flight of Boeing’s 787, and Feb. 8, 2010, the first flight of the company’s updated 747-8 freighter.

“I think employees will remember Feb. 24, 2011: That’s the day when we won the tanker competition,” Albaugh said.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., remembered the day in 2008 when the Air Force’s decision initially went the other way. Political leaders had gathered at Boeing’s Everett plant in February 2008 planning to break out the bubbly but were shocked by the Pentagon’s pick of the EADS tanker instead. This time around, Boeing and its backers seemed prepared for a loss and were happily surprised by the win.

In 2008, Murray said, she pledged, “I won’t give up until we win. That day is today. We won.”

Boeing, with the backing of its friends in Congress, protested EADS’ win in 2008. Ultimately, the Air Force called for a do-over of its tanker contest. Murray credited the perseverance of Boeing officials, its workers and the congressional delegation with Boeing’s win as well as Boeing’s “competitive bid.”

In a rare appearance in Everett, Boeing’s McNerney thanked Washington’s congressional delegation, saying the company couldn’t have landed the tanker contract without their help. McNerney also expressed appreciation not only for Boeing machinists but also union leaders who lobbied for the contract.

“We’ve got to keep coming together like this,” he said.

In response, Tom Wroblewski, president of the local Machinists union, said the tanker win “demonstrates what we can do when we work together.”

Whether the positive feelings between union and company officials carry over into contract talks next year is unclear. In the meantime, Boeing and its workers can savor the moment.

“It just makes me feel about as good as I can feel,” McNerney said.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Near-death experience planted seeds for downtown Everett toy store

Former attorney Tom Harrison survived 9/11. It caused him to ask what’s important in life. Today, he runs MyMyToyStore.

Sean Jones, membership executive of Everett's Freedom Boat Club, helps club member Carolyn Duncan load equipment onto her boat before she and a friend head out crabbing onThursday, Aug. 11, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New Everett franchise offers boats at Everett Marina

Freedom Boat Club’s newest Washington location is in Everett, with six boats available to its members.

Devin Ryan, left to right, talks with Donald Whitley and Drew Yager before a test ride at Bicycle Centres Wednesday in Everett, Washington on August 24, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
New hands take the handlebars for Bicycle Centres

Longtime employees Devin Ryan, Aron Chaudiere and Ryan Brown bought the business that’s been around since 1976.

A truck drives past a sign displaying fuel prices on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Diesel prices stay high for truckers, farmers

Gas prices have fallen steadily this summer, but diesel costs have started to climb again.

FILE - Test engineer Jacob Wilcox pulls his arm out of a glove box used for processing sodium at TerraPower, a company developing and building small nuclear reactors, Jan. 13, 2022, in Everett, Wash. A major economic bill headed to the president has “game-changing” incentives for the nuclear energy industry, experts say, and those tax credits are even more substantial if a facility is sited in a community where a coal plant is closing. Bill Gates' company, TerraPower, plans to build an advanced, nontraditional nuclear reactor and employ workers from a local coal-fired power plant scheduled to close soon. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Everett nuclear research facility gets $750 million infusion

Bellevue’s TerraPower, which operates an Everett facility, got a hefty investment to fund research.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business briefs: Leadership Snohomish County names new executive director

Plus a new short-term, career programs at Edmonds College, state grants for small businesses and more.

Tim Leonard, owner of the Machine Shop, is closing the arcade this fall. (Photo by David Welton)
Arcade owner to pull plug on beloved Whidbey Island business

Tim Leonard, owner of the Machine Shop in Langley, recently decided he’ll call it quits this fall.

Jennifer Sadinsky is the owner of Grayhorse Mercantile, one of Langley’s newest stores. (David Welton)
Shopkeeper brings taste of Europe to Whidbey Island

A first-time business owner’s dream of opening a cheese shop became a reality this year.

Eviation's all-electric plane in flight Tuesday morning in Moses Lake, Washington, on Sept. 27, 2022. (Eviation)
Arlington’s all-electric plane, Alice, takes first test flight

Eviation Aircraft’s battery-powered plane logs successful first flight from Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake.

At two stores – in Edmonds and Renton – Wide Shoes Only store owner Dominic Ahn offers more than 600 styles of shoes for people with wide feet. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
These Edmonds and Renton shoe stores could change your life

Wide Shoes Only: Huge selection, expert fitting and superior customer service

Amber Weaver, who has worked at the Lakewood Crossing Starbucks for 5 years, with her daughter Melody, outside of her workplace on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Complaint accuses Starbucks of anti-union threats in Marysville

Meanwhile, a mother of two said Thursday that Starbucks refused to accommodate her schedule when she returned from maternity leave.

Snoop Dogg in a video announces the opening of 'Tha Dogg House' in January 2023. (Screenshot).
Dogg toyz: Funko, rapper Snoop Dogg greenlight new retail venture

“Tha Dogg House” opening next year in Inglewood, California, will be Funko’s third U.S. retail store.