Tanker Win Spurs Job Openings For Engineers At Boeing

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Less than two weeks after Boeing's win in the Air Force tanker competition, help wanted listings are beginning to show up at Boeing.

Understandably, Kansas aviation workers want to see a torrent of job openings to build the tanker, but that's not really the way it works. The help wanted listings start with a few openings, and then are expected to build up to more. The good news is, those listings are already growing.

Most of the recent openings posted are for engineers to work on the tanker program. A few openings were posted the day after the contract was announced. Several more job openings are listed now.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or the SPEEA , represents Boeing engineers. Union leaders expect to hear more about Boeing's engineering needs soon.

Bob Brewer, SPEEA Midwest Director said, "We're going to have meetings next week to actually look at a forward looking head count chart. We knew immediately when that happened, that was going to spur more activity here at the Wichita site as far as hiring for engineers. We're going to need new people, and we're going to need experienced people."

Brewer says Boeing has purposely been holding onto engineers connected with the tanker program, in hopes of finally landing the program. Engineers are among the more than 13,000 employees on layoff from Wichita aircraft plants. "Hopefully this is going to help some of them find a home," Brewer added.

Boeing has laid off about 800 workers since late 2008, and some of them were engineers who may have priority recall rights.

Probably too much has been made of how many jobs the tanker will bring to Wichita. Both Boeing and Airbus touted huge numbers, but when you read the fine print, they actually said in Kansas 7,500 jobs would be supported. Supported, not created.

A broader issue Brewer points out, is that the tanker might be the program which preserves the Wichita site. "I still think the biggest thing is that this puts Boeing Wichita on the map to stay. There was a lot of concern that might not happen," Brewer said.

Boeing's contract calls for the company to design, develop and then manufacture eighteen tankers by 2017. The engineers will get the ball rolling, later tool designers and machinists will be needed. The machinists will get the plane as it gets closer to production.

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