Long before Chris Beers, an aerospace modification electrician, set foot inside Boeing’s Everett Modification Center four years ago, he had a burning desire to work on airplanes.
At 31, he still displays the old T-shirt and airplane patch that he brought home from the Museum of Aviation in Georgia as a young boy. It’s a reminder of the trip that fueled his passion for aviation and the unlikely journey that led him to success as an award-winning team leader at Boeing.
“I had a modest upbringing to say the least,” Beers said. "Of course, aviation is always expensive — flight school, (airframe and powerplant) school, things of that nature. So I didn’t really think that was going to happen.”
After saving up enough money to begin paying his own way through flight school in his home state of Pennsylvania in 2018, an unexpected email changed the course of Beers’ life.
“I got an email from the flight school saying that Boeing is going to come and do interviews for some positions,” Beers said. “So I rented a suit to look super spiffy, and I went down to the school and talked to the recruiter. She seemed pretty impressed with me. She helped me write my resume for Boeing and fill out the requisition for a few of the jobs here, and I ended up getting a modification electrician job.”
Boeing paid for Beers’ cross-country relocation, and he hit the ground running in his new career.
“I started working on the floor. I learned all of the jobs and the work package. And eventually, I became the team leader,” he said. “It’s just been really exciting to think back on my journey to Boeing. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now, working for Boeing is the most important thing in my life.”
As a team leader, Beers oversaw a team of modification electricians who work in the Everett, Wash., facility where the KC-46A Pegasus tanker is made for the U.S. Air Force and allies. Shortly after being interviewed for this story, he was promoted to quality inspector. In that role, he is responsible for inspecting parts, assemblies and systems for conformance with specifications.
The multi-mission Pegasus is the world’s most advanced aerial refueler, delivering crucial data as well as fuel to the fleet. It also provides passenger, cargo and aeromedical transportation for rapid global mobility.
Modification electricians are tasked with wiring the KC-46A’s military communications and data connectivity systems and conducting functional testing for the Aerial Refueling Operator Station (AROS) console and refueling boom. They also install the wire bundles for the aircraft’s Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM), one of several defensive systems that make the KC-46 tanker more combat ready than any other.
“I tell people this a lot: it’s really critical that we get our jobs right because — at the end of the day — it’s life-and-death,” Beers said. “That’s why I take everything so seriously.”
With more KC-46A tankers operational globally than any other tanker except the Boeing-built KC-135, Beers said he takes great pride in knowing that his work plays a crucial role in keeping Americans and allies safe.
“When I watch the KC-46A takeoff, it’s really awesome to see. I get to look up in the sky and I go, ‘I helped build that! That’s part of me right there!’ And then the Air Force gets to have it, and they get to fly their missions and supply fuel, so my small contributions are affecting millions of people,” he said. “That’s why I go so hard for quality, because you don’t know when you’re going to have to rely on that aircraft one day.”
On Aug. 7, Chris got the rare chance to watch his hard work center stage at the Boeing Seafair Air Show at Genesee Park in Seattle, where the KC-46A Pegasus and P-8A Poseidon flew at a low altitude in refueling formation to the delight of the crowd viewing on land as well as from boats cruising the adjacent Lake Washington.
“Being a team leader and seeing the aircraft fly, I know I pushed the team to have the best quality possible, and I know (the crowd) saw the fruits of our labor when they saw that flyover,” he said. “It was just amazing.”
By Pat Chiesa