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In four years with Boeing, mechanic Mikias Mezgebu has helped build dozens of 777s. But recently, he developed a special bond with one of the twin-aisle jets coming down the assembly line.
The airplane was the 900th Boeing 777. More importantly, though, the airline that would receive the airplane is the flagship carrier for Mezgebu's native country of Ethiopia.
"It was a little bit emotional just looking at the colors of the flag on the vertical fin," said Mezgebu. "I was homesick after fifteen years...for the first time."
Fifteen years ago, Mezgebu and his family moved from Ethiopia to the United States. While Mezgebu has adopted the American lifestyle, he still cherishes his home country.
"The language, the food, the culture, the religion, all that sort of stuff ...that part of me is still Ethiopian," he said.
So when Ethiopian Airlines, a longtime Boeing customer, ordered 5 777-200LRs (longer range) last year, Mezgebu was thrilled.
"I was so excited and I just couldn't wait to put my hands on them."
Inside Boeing's airplane factories, Mezgebu's story is not uncommon. Every day, the diverse work force builds jetliners for airlines from every corner of the globe.
Glenn Brown, a Boeing 777 manufacturing supervisor says, "They start talking about their home country and getting a little excited about it going down that road and being delivered to where they actually originally came from."
"I was so excited and I just couldn't wait to put my hands on them." Mikias Mezgebu, Boeing 777 mechanic
Because the 777-200 LR is the longest range airplane in the world, Ethiopian Airlines will be able to offer direct flights from Eastern Africa to the United States. It means Mezgebu and the Ethiopian friends and family he keeps in touch with over Facebook may one day travel on an airplane he helped build.
In early November, Boeing delivered the 777-200LR to Ethiopians Airlines, the first of five for the Addis Ababa-based carrier.
"I'm really looking forward to flying on the airplane," said Mezgebu. "Just because of the fact that I worked on it, just all of the confidence that I have with the 777 you know. I just can't wait to fly on it."