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Frontiers November 2012 Issue

Boeing’s Montana operations provide critical high-tech services and fabrication By James Wallace HELENA, MONT. Robin Lock doesn’t mind getting open spaces and lonesome highways, afor wild rivers and picturesque lakes, fornational parks and dude ranches, for wide-her hands and clothes dirty, atwork anyway. She does heavy metal grinding and state slightly bigger than Japan that shares hand finishing at Boeing’s Fabrication site a long border with Canada and where cow- in Helena, Mont., and she loves her job— boys still drive cattle up into the mountains and living in Montana. to feed on summer grasses. Recently, when she took her car to But Boeing is not there because of a mechanic, he asked why she was so the scenery, as spectacular as it is. The dirty. She explained she had just gotten company’s operations in Montana are high- off work. At Boeing. tech, from flight-testing new technologies “Oh, that’s right, Boeing is in Helena that help shape the future of flight to now. Guess you will be moving to Seattle cutting-edge manufacturing with hard “Once you live pretty soon,” he kidded, referring to Wash- metals such as titanium. ington state where Boeing builds jetliners. Some 200 employees with Commercial in Montana you Not a chance, Lock said in an interview. Airplanes and Defense, Space & Security call never want to live “I’ll never leave Montana.” jetliners, including the 787, and provide ser-Montana home. They fabricate parts for BoeingShe loves Big Sky Country, as Montana anyplace else.” is sometimes called, an outdoor recreational vices and critical support to the U.S. Air Force paradise in winter and summer. It’s a state and the Minuteman III missile program. famed for big blue skies, towering, snow- And employees with Boeing Test & Eval- – Robin Lock, Fabrication specialist covered mountains and vast rolling plains, uation can usually be found at a remote site ASSOCIATED PRESS in northeast Montana—Glasgow—when Boeing jetliners are tested. Across the state are also dozens of Boeing suppliers and vendors. Boeing Helena is focused on manufac- turing titanium and other hard-metal parts for Boeing 7-series jetliners. Those parts include 767 main landing gear beams. The site also roughs the main landing gear for the 737, with the finishing work performed at Boeing Fabrication in Portland, Ore. And Helena co-produces with Portland the titanium side-of-body chord for the 787. That chord for the Dreamliner under- scores the complex, hard-metal machinery capabilities of the Boeing team in Helena. It’s a part that attaches the wing to the air- plane body. The side-of-body chord starts out as a 5,400-pound (2,450-kilogram) chunk of titanium. When this single piece is milled down into the actual 787 part, it weighs 250 pounds (110 kilograms). PHOTOS: Glasgow, Mont., in the early morning. BOB FERGUSON/BOEING Boeing has a growing Lock hand-finishes hard-metal parts after presence in the Helena community, as evidenced by its sponsorship of Helena’s Last they come off the manufacturing machines. Chance Stampede rodeo in July. DANIEL THOMPSON/BOEING “It’s perfect for me,” she said. “I’ve always liked to get a little dirty and I’ve BOEING FRONTIERS / NOVEMBER 2012 21


Frontiers November 2012 Issue
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