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News Article - June 22 2006

Boeing to add 350 jobs in Delco
  Boeing Co.'s Ridley Park manufacturing plant will add 350 employees and $105 million in upgrades over the next three years to produce the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the company said. Gov. Rendell, who visited the plant yesterday, said the expansion was due in part to a "business-friendly" environment in Pennsylvania. The state and the Delaware County Commerce Center are providing an "investment package" of $2 million to be used for training new and existing employees. The Ridley Park facility already employs 4,700.

   Boeing spokesman Jack Satterfield said Boeing would use the training funds to help its employees get "A&P," or airframe and powerplant, certifications necessary to work on the Osprey and the CH-47F Chinook, a tandem rotor, medium- to heavy-lift chopper. Last week, the plant officially rolled out the CH-47F, a complete update of a military helicopter that has been in use since the Vietnam War.

   The government investment package included:

   $750,000 in an "Opportunity Grant," described as a "flexible program," that companies apply to their particular needs.
$245,000 in customized job-training funds.
$1.05 million in job-creation tax credits.
The plant needs more workers, even as it has become more efficient through the use of lean manufacturing techniques and digital, rather than paper, documentation, Satterfield said. U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.), a longtime advocate of the plant, remembered when that was not the case. Nine years ago, the plant was threatened with closure because of its inefficiency.

   He and other Pennsylvanians flew to Boeing's headquarters in Seattle to plead for a chance to turn things around. Weldon estimates that today the plant is responsible for 12,000 jobs in the region, including the machine shops and other businesses that support work at the plant. The Osprey development program was plagued by troubles, including accidents that killed 23 Marines in 2000.

   Critics have contended that the project was poorly managed and that the aircraft had inherent design flaws. But last year, the Pentagon recommended the Osprey be put into full production. The fuselage, or body, of the craft is made in Ridley Park, while the rotors and tail are manufactured and attached to the fuselage by Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Amarillo, Texas. It is set to be ready for use in combat support next year.

   The aircraft points its rotors skyward to take off vertically, like a helicopter. In flight, the rotors swivel to the horizontal, so that the aircraft can fly like an airplane. "The thing with the V-22 that people didn't understand was... it was a breakthrough in aviation technology," Weldon said. He envisions a day when larger tilt-rotors will ply the skies as commuter craft, shuttling passengers from the heart of Philadelphia into the middle of Chicago, avoiding the hassle of airports and their overcrowded runways. "It's almost as significant as the first helicopter," Weldon said.

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer

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