Steve Wilhelm, May 22, 2014, Puget Sound Business Journal
Boeing is preparing for a long run of flight testing, partly by tuning up the Moses Lake facility where much test activity takes place.
For the first time, the former Air Force hangar sports a large blue Boeing logo, and a new coat of paint. Instead of looking like the military surplus structure it is, it now looks like a Boeing facility.
The Boeing building is on the east side of Grant County International Airport, which is the chief asset of the Port of Moses Lake.
“We’re hoping this recent investment represents increased awareness of this facility amongst Boeing management,” said Port of Moses Lake Executive Manager Pat Jones, “and of (the facility’s) future supporting the increased flight test and certification requirements the company is facing over the next five years.”
During Boeing’s annual briefing with reporters in late April, 787 Chief Pilot Randy Neville said Boeing’s flight test unit, which is now finishing tests of the 787-9, is preparing for a lot more work.
“The future looks bright around here. As soon as we finish this program, we’ll be off and running with the 767 tanker program, and the 737 Max, the 787-10,” he said.
While he declined to give head counts, Neville said Boeing is reaching out across the organization for pilots.
“We’ve known that workload is coming for quite a while, so we’re ramping up,” he said. “We’re keeping busy, and we’re constantly looking at the manpower.”
Boeing’s first KC-46 tanker, based on the twin-engine 767 airframe, is scheduled to fly this summer.
Grant County International Airport is an important Boeing flight test facility, partly due to the arid climate, the airport’s extremely long 13,000-foot runway, and the region’s relatively low population.
Boeing bought the building at auction from the U.S. government in 1968, Jones said.
The building has a long legacy for Boeing, and local legend is that Boeing delivered B-52s and KC-135 tankers from there many years ago, Jones said.
In addition, a team of about 150 people developed the Condor, one of the first robot drones, in the building in the late 1980s, Jones said.