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Frontiers October 2013 Issue

level of detail and hand craftsmanship required for the job. “We got this special bond,” he said of his teammates and the ease with which they joke around with one another. “This is my family. I could just tell I found my family.” Located some 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Atlanta, positioned square in the center of the state, Macon truly is the “heart of Georgia,” where tea is served sweet, the humidity can stick like sugar, and a perfect day might be one spent fishing for crappie, the favored catch, or getting together with family and friends. Away from the major thoroughfares, hotel chains and shopping malls, tucked along a two-lane road that bisects intermittent stretches of pine-filled woods and grassy fields, lies Boeing Macon. Its two buildings are just a few miles apart, the short drive slowed only by a lone railroad track crossing. Stenciled letters along the glass windows framing the main building’s entryway state what its many awards throughout the years confirm: “Beyond These Doors Is a Winning Team.” Whether on the shop floor or in a supporting role, the employees of “Team Macon” play a vital role in pumping out parts large and small for Boeing products that support military and humanitarian missions around the world. Visitors typically won’t find completed aircraft here, other than those seen in the pictures and posters that pepper the walls of common areas or that are flown in by the military on special occasions. That’s because Boeing Macon is a place for subassembly work, where parts for the Boeing-built C-17 Globemaster III airlifter and H-47 Chinook, as well as for the A-10 Thunderbolt, leave the facility at a steady pulse on 18-wheel trucks bound for sites such as Long Beach, Calif., Ridley Township, Pa., St. Claire, Ill., and Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Completed products for the Chinook leave the site every four days. Some 500 employees work at Boeing Macon, with roughly 300 of them at Building 1, where larger parts for the three aircraft are assembled. Twenty-five years ago, this was the only building in a site first started by Boeing heritage company McDonnell Douglas. Ed Raines was among the first few classes of production mechanics hired back then to build flaps for the C-17, parts of the aircraft wing that extend to provide extra lift for takeoff and landings. At the time, he was in the U.S. Air Force and engaged to his high school sweetheart, who was, he said, determined to find him a job—she even put in his application. The rest happened quickly: He left the Air Force in April, married in May, began a training course in October and by December was on the shop floor, ready to start work. The space was just an empty facility then. “We had to paint the floor until the tools came in,” Raines recalled. Now a production manager on the Chinook program, Raines, along with about a dozen colleagues who still work at Boeing Macon, helped shape the site into what it is today. In the familiar, fond manner of friends who have grown up together, who have watched one another marry, have children and watched those children graduate, colleagues still joke about the early days and how many times they must have mopped that wide open floor—all in anticipation for the first tools to arrive. Added Renee Copeland, hired into Business Planning and Management in October 1998 and now in Finance: “There was nobody here to hold our hand … We just had an incredible team of people, everybody trying to make it work. We didn’t want to let anybody down. We didn’t want to let the customer down.” The experience taught Raines and his teammates some valuable lessons about resilience and working together. “Flaps used to be labeled the toughest area in the facility,” said Raines, referring to the many quality issues they had to overcome. “It was a lot of titanium, a lot of PHOTOS: (Top, from left) Jessica Powell, C-17 sheet metal mechanic; A-10 sheet metal mechanics Algrin Bell, left, and Hope Sirman; Ed Raines, Chinook production manager; Satish Erramelli, Chinook quality inspector. (Center) Sheet metal mechanic Jeff York prepares the skin of a Chinook tail cone assembly for final installation. (Bottom) A view of Boeing Macon’s main facility, where major parts are assembled for the H-47 Chinook, the C-17 Globemaster III and the A-10 Thunderbolt. Bob Ferguson/Boeing BEOING FRONTIERS / OCTOBER 2013 39


Frontiers October 2013 Issue
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