Victory Lap

February 18, 2015 in Commercial

Clockwise from left: Clint Dunagan, foreground, cabin systems manager, and Ryan Reynolds, fabrication specialist, inspect a luggage bin; fabrication specialists Mark Hendrix, from left, Trent Hervey and Timothy Moxley work on a rear bin.

Bob Ferguson/Boeing

With an automotive racing theme, the Pit Crew Academy helps 787 mechanics complete training faster

Inside the Design Build Center in Everett, Wash., aviation meets automotive. A 787 Dreamliner cabin mock-up is surrounded by NASCAR reminders in the cavernous building; among them are racing-team banners, stock-car spoiler prototypes, a racing-shop toolroom and even a section of fenced-in bleacher seating. Known as the Pit Crew Academy, it's where airplane mechanics and technicians learn how to swap out 787 interior parts, sharing in auto racing–themed training that stresses speed and efficiency, just like during a NASCAR pit stop.

It's a very busy place. Last year the center hosted 143 workshops involving 4,400 people, and in 2012 it welcomed another 122 events and 3,800 visitors. Six airlines have enrolled maintenance employees in the classes.

Seven Boeing South Carolina cabin-interior specialists, preceded by nine Air Canada mechanics and aircraft maintenance engineers, recently were added to the roll call, bringing Air Canada's total number of training participants to 70. Each group spent two intense days with Pit Crew instructors.

They were taught how to replace interior airplane parts in such a rapid-fire manner that even the most demanding NASCAR driver would have offered a thumbs-up.

"It's all about teamwork, getting it right the first time," said Timothy Moxley, a Boeing South Carolina fabrication specialist and four-year Boeing employee. "In NASCAR, you might be in first place, you mess up, it costs you a few seconds and you end up in 10th. It's simplified here. They want it simple. I get that."

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is the largest governing body of stock car racing in the United States and sanctions races in many states, particularly in the South.

In fast-moving sessions, the Boeing South Carolina and Air Canada crews were shown how to replace floor panels and overhead bins. They traded out windows. They pulled up carpet. They worked on galleys. They learned how to install business-class seats in as little as 20 minutes, whereas on other planes it can take an hour and a half. They did much of this work without tools, simply fastening and unfastening 787 composite pieces.

Read more in the February 2015 issue of Frontiers.