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Updated Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Boeing workers concerned, optimistic about 787

By Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter

Boeing employees responded Thursday to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) grounding of the much-touted 787 Dreamliner with reactions ranging from confidence to concern.

“It’s just a glitch,” said one engineer, who refused to give his name. “Everything is fixable.”

A machinist, who also declined to be named, said, “It’s a black eye, for sure. Nobody likes to see that kind of news.”

On Wednesday, the FAA ordered the 787 grounded until its batteries are proved safe. The dramatic action came after two incidents within eight days that raised concern about battery fires and overheating.

Very few employees who were approached outside of Boeing’s assembly plant or at the union halls in Everett were willing to talk Thursday, and those who did would not give a name.

That didn’t keep a few from waxing poetic about their product, particularly on a day when the company officially reclaimed from Airbus the crown of world’s biggest plane manufacturer.

“Boeing still makes the best planes in the world,” said one. “I have a license plate that says, ‘If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going.’ ”

Another man attributed the Dreamliner’s stumbles to Boeing’s departure from the usual “evolutionary” changes in airplane technology.

“The 787 is revolutionary, with cutting-edge technology. It’s a quantum leap of change. So, of course, it’s not unexpected that there would be issues.”

A couple engineers seemed optimistic about resolving the problems.

“It’s just a challenge, that why engineers become engineers,” said one.

Said another: “It’s probably not even going to turn out to be that big of a deal.”

Two other men, both machinists, were a bit less upbeat.“Oh, it’s fixable,” said one. “But it’s going to take a lot of time and lot of money, money they keep saying they don’t have.”

“They don’t even know what’s wrong yet,” said another. “It’s still too early. It’s day by day at this point.”

“It was the right thing to do as far I’m concerned,” said another man who would not say what he does for the company. “If there’s any doubts at all, it’s better to figure them out now before someone gets hurt. Safety is number one.”

Christine Clarridge can be reached at cclarridge@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8983.


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