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Leonard Banks walks through the fuselage of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and admires its beauty. He knows it's not just skin deep.
Banks has worked on the avionics of countless airplanes for more than a decade, so he can appreciate the advanced systems inside the 787.
"It's beautiful," says Banks, a retired U.S. Air Force mechanic. "It's got a lot of great technology. The things we're used to seeing, we don't see on this aircraft."
Banks will be seeing much more of the Dreamliner as he and his colleagues at Boeing's Global Services & Support site in San Antonio, Texas, will upgrade 787s for delivery.
"We want to put our hands on it. We want to get to know it," says Banks.
"It's got a lot of great technology. The things we're used to seeing, we don't see on this aircraft." Leonard Banks, Boeing avionics mechanic on the 787 Dreamliner
On March 11, Boeing celebrated the start of change incorporation work on the 787 in San Antonio. Change incorporation is the standard process of modifying airplanes to meet configuration standards established during the airplane's certification. The major tasks include:
Banks and the nearly 2,000 employees at Boeing's site in San Antonio are uniquely qualified to perform the work because they've spent years maintaining and modernizing some of the workhorses of the U.S Air Force fleet, including the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster and the C-130 Hercules.
"Boeing San Antonio specializes in modification work and has the capability and capacity to get the job done." Scott Fancher, 787 Vice President and General Manager
"We continuously look for ways to leverage the strength of the Boeing enterprise, taking advantage of the team and the skills we have across the company," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. "San Antonio specializes in modification work and has the capability and capacity to get the job done. The team was a natural choice."
The San Antonio team won't be doing the work alone. A team of mechanics and engineers who've worked on the 787 for years are here to share their knowledge.
"It's definitely exciting," says James Burge, a structures specialist previously based at Boeing's 787 factory in Everett, Wash. "We've done a lot of work in preparation for the plane to get here, and there's still a lot left to do. But with the people we have on staff, I see no problem with that."
The current plan calls for three Dreamliners to complete change incorporation in San Antonio. Three other flight test 787 airplanes will also be brought here to be refurbished before delivery. And if the need arises, there's enough capacity to accommodate more 787s.
"We can see it now. We can touch it. And we can move on to what we've been doing," says Banks.