Learning the Fundamentals

By Shawn Flowers

June 2016

In 1989 during the beginning of the newly re-engineered Boeing 747-400 program, the company was hiring aviation people from all over the country to prepare for a ramp-up in production to a four-day cycle. At the time, I had just finished A & P school in Colorado, and a Boeing recruiter was on-site looking for graduates to move to Seattle to join the production team.

Moving to the Northwest and working for a very reputable company had appeal to me and I gladly accepted the offer over a much better offer from a major U.S.airline. I was unable to find excitement in the prospect of living in California.

I moved to Everett, Wash., and began a 13-year journey learning the elements of aircraft production. I was fortunate to begin my tenure in Final Assembly Functional Test, which allows one to learn the systems on the aircraft and know the entire build of the aircraft by doing shakedown inspections. I went on to facilitate a Continuous Quality Improvement movement, which came with a great deal of training in inspiration from the leadership team. The fundamentals of what was taught are still valuable in my aviation role to this day.

In the early '90s, emerging issues with the 747 and 767 Pylon/Engine/Wing attach points spawned a new program to develop a massive campaign to retrofit the fleet with strengthened attach points and load paths from wing to engine. I was given the opportunity to join this program in its early stages and worked with the Service Bulletin group as tooling, processes and parts were being developed. I went on to lead Service Bulletin validation and instruct and advise teams around the world as implementation began. I learned an enormous amount about the customer's side of the aircraft industry during this program ...

After this program began to wind down and Boeing's on-site support was no longer needed, I moved to the 747-400 Preflight and Delivery team. Here I was allowed to grow my troubleshooting skills and leadership abilities. Taking a new aircraft from the factory, through paint, initial fueling and on to first flight is a monumental task in itself. Each day, new problems are uncovered by the regimen of rigorous testing that is performed on each system. There was always some new and challenging problem to delve into and solve.

I was given many leadership opportunities along the way, from working on the presidential aircraft to a massive production-line recovery team in the late '90s to assist the factory in moving behind-schedule jobs back into position.

I was recruited away from Boeing in 2002 into private aviation. I am deeply grateful to my aviation beginnings with The Boeing Company. Those experiences have shaped my successful career in the private aviation sector.

Thank you and congratulations, Boeing, on reaching the 100 Years monument. I take pride in knowing I had a small part in that.