Front Page
Boeing Frontiers
March 2004
Volume 02, Issue 10
Boeing Frontiers
Main Feature
From the Surf to the Stars

As a Boeing design and development center, Huntington Beach is primed for liftoff


Chairmen of the boards
These surfing aficionados from Boeing's Huntington Beach, Calif., facility are working to help Boeing catch the next wave.


They call Huntington Beach, Calif., "Surf City, USA." Located just south of Los Angeles and west of the original Disneyland, Huntington Beach is home to the annual U.S. Open of Surfing, where surfer kings worldwide have challenged powerful waves and each other for more than 40 years.

The Beach Boys made Huntington Beach famous around the world with their songs and four-part harmony. However, Boeing and its predecessor companies boosted that fame exponentially with astounding achievements like Apollo, Skylab, the Space Shuttle, the Delta family of launch vehicles and the International Space Station. Huntington Beach is home to a Boeing 240-acre space park, dedicated on Nov. 14, 1963, by then Vice President Lyndon Johnson and Donald Douglas Jr. According to Douglas, the new facility was "a scientific assault station on the planets and the stars." Here, in part, legions of Boeing employees, aerospace leaders, astronauts and bona fide scientific and engineering geniuses won the space race-with room to spare.

From the Surf to the StarsWhether champion surfer or rocket scientist, scientist, these high achievers continue to make an impact on the global psyche by defying gravity, inertia and materials as they stretch demanding performance envelopes.

The Huntington Beach site is currently a premier design and development center for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and Phantom Works, the Boeing advanced research-and-development unit. That makes this location the place where people reach for the stars and design systems to get there.

"Huntington Beach makes a very significant contribution to The Boeing Company," said Will Trafton, the site host and Boeing IDS vice president and general manager of Expendable Launch Systems. "At 6,500 employees, growing to 7,500 employees in 2004, we'd like to think of ourselves as the premier design, development and program management center for The Boeing Company."

The location features eight major tenants, including key IDS programs such as Future Combat Systems, the Space Shuttle, International Space Station and the Delta launch vehicle program. Huntington Beach also supports Phantom Works, which has a host of programs on-site. "So when you look at it in the aggregate, this site plays a significant role in Boeing financial success," Trafton said. "It's a thriving site, and I see a very bright future for Boeing in Huntington Beach."

From the Surf to the StarsThe facility looks and feels pretty much like a college campus-turned-industrial think tank. The trees, lawns and gardens, nearby ocean breezes, high-tech laboratories and test facilities, rapid prototyping works, and simulation labs make this one of the company centers of excellence. And the men and women here are focused on one overarching goal: mission success.

"The Huntington Beach campus is unique within Boeing in that we have a diverse set of programs located in one spot. For me, this has been a windfall opportunity," said John Vassberg, Boeing Technical Fellow from Phantom Works. "That allows me to work on a variety of technical problems that I would not be able to do elsewhere."

"I work with great people here in Huntington Beach. I believe they are the cream of the crop," said Boeing Technical Fellow Blaine Rawdon, who, as an aircraft configuration designer, functions as the "airplane architect" in small teams that include engineers in aerodynamics, mass properties, propulsion and operations analysis. "Our intellectually open culture provides great opportunities to broaden one's understanding of other disciplines."

Huntington Beach hosts 122 Boeing Technical Fellows, as well as a cadre of other professionals. Prodigious numbers of engineering innovators and craftsmen design, fabricate and test most anything, made from almost any materials.

Mahesh Reddy, the Huntington Beach site director of Engineering and the regional lead for Phantom Works, said he's impressed with the site's current work and its future prospects.

"Our labs are now heavily utilized for critical Space Shuttle return-to-flight work," Reddy said. "We have cryogenic testing capabilities and space-related materials and research activity that are significant to space products developed at this site. We also have here at least 10 programs that are performing modeling and simulation activities."

From the Surf to the StarsAn important improvement focus for the Huntington Beach Engineering organization has been the development of 18 Employee Involvement teams. For Reddy, empowering employees is fundamental to the future growth of Boeing business.

"We have people who want to make a difference, if you only empower them," Reddy explained. "We know employees generally want to do the right thing. It is the bureaucracy that slows down their innovative minds from progressive thinking. My job is to be the barrier buster."

To pass the knowledge that will help young engineers become skilled employees and effective leaders, the Huntington Beach site boasts a Mentor's Circle and a Young Engineers Team. The Mentor's Circle helps one- to three-year employees with introductions to management, other Boeing sites, facilities and programs. The Circle raises and discusses issues, and transfers unstated and unwritten knowledge.

"We formed the team to create opportunities for rotation, mentoring, shadowing, training and education," said Wess Gates, the team's leader. "We are challenging existing methods and devising new and cutting-edge ways to solve today's issues."

From the Surf to the StarsThese initiatives to support the development of Huntington Beach people are complemented with significant business-program investments at the location. Examples include campus upgrades and a new Future Combat Systems lab to demonstrate system-of-systems integration. Work environment changes include updating common areas with multicolored paint schemes, carpeting and new furnishings.

Huntington Beach "has a college campus-like atmosphere and layout," said Phillip Reid, a principal engineer scientist who works on planning, designing, building and operating ground-based command, control and communications systems for space vehicles. "It's close to the beach-offering that nice ocean breeze, refreshingly beautiful gardens throughout the plant, a new fitness center and a great cafeteria."

Boeing Technical Fellow Steve Keener is a prolific inventor and a frequent user of Huntington Beach laboratories. Keener won the Boeing 2002 Engineering Innovation Award for pre-coated rivets on C-17 aircraft. The new rivets made unnecessary any wet and gooey sealant, the sealant weight and the solvent cleanup. Keener used the labs to validate his patented idea, which saves $2 million on each C-17.

"Huntington Beach is an excellent place to work. I consider the labs extremely capable," said Keener. "They excel at large-scale and specialty tests and are great at ad-libbing. There are a tremendous number of people there I owe gratitude to."

The Huntington Beach facility "is very important to Boeing," said Charlotte Chamberlin, director, Shared Services. "Given the legacy of this site and its great future, we will continue making the right investments to make our programs successful and create a work environment that enables us to attract and retain the best team."

Huntington Beach organizations, executives and major programs

Boeing Integrated Defense

Air Force Space Systems
John Fuller
Delta, Global Positioning Satellite, Proprietary

Expendable Launch Systems
Will Trafton
Proprietary, Delta II/IV, Sea Launch, Inertial Upper Stage

Space & Intelligence Systems
Roger Roberts
Multiple proprietary

NASA Systems
Larry Kauffman
International Space Station, Space Shuttle, X-37

Army Systems
Frank DeMattia
Future Combat Systems

Homeland Security & Services
Ronald Maehl
Network Enabled Solutions

Phantom Works / IdeAS

Mike Heinz
Network Centric Operations, Orbital Space Plane

In addition to engineering and scientific projects, employees engage in scores of volunteer activities. They consistently pitch in to participate in wetlands cleanups, outfit needy children with backpacks and school supplies, perform maintenance and home repairs for seniors, participate in blood drives and raise funds for local charities.

Huntington Beach employees also take part in creative, high-value community programs. A Summer Science Camp has given elementary and middle school kids six days of hands-on science and math projects for more than 10 years.

A standout program is the Educator Enrichment Day in which more than 500 teachers come to learn innovative ways to inspire kids. Supported by the California governor's office and state education officials, Boeing engineers and scientists flood the teachers with creative ideas and printed materials for their classrooms. The objective is to fuel young minds with a real passion for mathematics and engineering to help ensure a future work force for the aerospace industry.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring volunteer efforts was started without fanfare and by employee initiative: an inner-city program to prepare kids from single-parent homes for college. Boeing engineer Henry Grooms started the REACH program-as in "reach for the stars"-along with his wife and Huntington Beach Community Relations specialist Faye Belson-Hardin. REACH ensures that the kids can rub elbows with numerous successful aerospace men and women to learn how to become successful themselves. Now in its 11th year, REACH has received steadfast support from Boeing, as well as numerous educators, institutions, business leaders, prominent citizens and NASA astronauts, who help on a purely volunteer basis.

Yet all at Huntington Beach is not perfect. For several months, the Delta program has lived under a cloud because of the U.S. Air Force suspension of Boeing on the Delta IV/Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. "These issues are being actively addressed and will be put behind us in the near term," said Trafton, noting that the Delta IV is "an incredibly powerful rocket that is going to play a major role in the national security of this country for years to come.

"We work hard to ensure that all of our Huntington Beach programs have full access to the resources, assets and capabilities offered by our site. Their success is our success, and we are determined to continue to enhance the reputation of this site to the greatest extent possible," Trafton added. "I am very proud of the team here at Huntington Beach. We have a rich heritage and we have a strong, promising future."


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