Bob Millican has built his career on the 767, joining the team as a structures mechanic more than 30 years ago.
He’s fastened countless fuselage panels and installed hundreds of wings but says there’s nothing that compares to building the first airplane of a brand new model.
“It’s cool to be able to say you were part of the first one,” said Millican referring to the 767-300 Freighter which lifted off for the first time on June 20, 1995 from Everett, Washington.
“I remember that UPS brown tail on the first flight,” said Ryann Stott, a 767 mechanic at the time who is now an Operational Excellence workplace coach. “In that moment I thought, the freight business is going to keep the 767 in business until I retire -- and it has.”
The first 767 Freighter was destined for launch customer UPS, which today has 66 of the production freighters in its fleet, second only to FedEx which flies 86. The original UPS freighter, still in service, was recently updated with a large display system in the flight deck, and is being used to fly critical supplies, equipment and e-commerce shipments around the world.
767 Freighter operators on five continents are flying their fleets at peak capacity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the 767 increased its production rate to three airplanes a month to meet customer demand for freighters and has a 54-airplane backlog. Boeing has delivered 175 767-300 Freighters, all of which remain in service.
“Our team is building a proven, reliable airplane that continues to demonstrate its value to our customers as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Kim Smith, 747/767 vice president and general manager. “This is our time to shine.”
In fact, the 767 factory has some extra sparkle these days. The program is making investments in the factory. “The changes will allow the team to work more safely and efficiently so we can deliver for our customers when they need it most” Smith added.
Teams are sprucing up the factory using 5S, a Lean practice that stands for sort, simplify, sweep, standardize and self-discipline. They are using it to remove clutter and improve work flow.
They’re standardizing the way each shop is organized and eliminating traveled work to enhance safety, create a FOD-free environment and deliver the highest-quality product.
“We’re making sure our house is in order so that our customers can remain confident they’re getting the best freighter available 25 years and running,” Smith said.
By Shaniqua Manning Muhammad