OT - What is a Boeing Machinist?

I've wondered since I was a kid growing up
near Seattle. Are they really machinists,
all 27,000 of them, or are they aircraft
Reply to
Jim Stewart
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Years ago, most were actual machinists (when Boeing fabricated most of the parts in house). Now the vast majority are assemblers. Don't let the moniker "assembers" throw you though - the skills required by the average assembler, while not the same as a true machinist, are pretty rigourous. Imagine trying to drill a hole to +.002/-000 on a compound curved surface, through a stack up of titanium and composite, free hand. If you mess up, the hole has to be reviewed and repaired, usually with the next size fasterner, to the same tolerances. Each repair is a costly, time consuming process. I guess what I am trying to say is that most Boeing "assemblers" still need to apply that machinist's attitude to their work. It must be perfect every time.
Reply to
Kelly Jones
They work on pogo sticks?
Bob Swinney ** Posted from
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Reply to
Robert Swinney
Remember, if you ever fly on a Boeing airliner, your life depends on their skill.
Same thing with airline mechanics. Things have changed, but I remember the days when airline mechanics made substantially less than car mechanics at new car dealers.
Reply to
Don Stauffer
IME, the shop rate is considerably less for aircraft mechanics compared to car mechanics (maybe 2/3- 70 vs. 90/hr), but they seem to make up the difference (and much, much more!) in other charges.
Best regards, Spehro Pefhany
Reply to
Spehro Pefhany
I know a couple guys who are retired McDonnell-Douglas (now Boeing, of course) tool and die makers. They did actual machine work, from time to time, but most of their job was assembling fixtures for parts to be assembled on. A fair bit of that assembly required drilling holes after the parts were placed on the fixture, or riveting, or whatever. Some of these fixtures would fill a good-sized room, but needed to be measured uot quite precisely. If they set up the fixture right, then those assembled components would fit to the next component with relatively little adjustment.
So, I gather that the tool and die makers were the highest class of machinist at the aircraft makers. But, these planes don't go together like a Detroit car, where you just hang parts on a frame and stick the bolts in. When you're only making 50 a year or something, and the components are so large, there is a LOT of hand fitting involved, placing panels in place and then drilling a thousand holes for rivets, then riveting, then smoothing the rivets. The newest planes have a lot of composite in them, which takes a lot of detail work in assembling the panels and laying up the composite before autoclaving.
Reply to
Jon Elson
Most are probably assemblers who belong to the machinists union, much like nurses who belong to the Teamsters union.
Reply to
Jim Chandler
Browsing thru responses to your question, an important point seems to have been missed: Namely, aviation blueprints can and do vary substantially from your 'typical' mechanical drawing. Said differently, there is an entirely different reference system to be learned, a lot of nomenclature specific to 'lofting' techniques, etc.
Sort of like comparing moldmakers, die makers, mill wrights, etc.
Anyway, it's been a while since I've visited this group, so ...........
Reply to
That's it. They belong to the International Assoc. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union. Same union I was in for 22 yrs. at USAir. Or what we called the IAMAANPWCSU, International Assoc. of Machinists And Any Non-skilled Plug We Can Sign Up. In the old days, it was a true craft union and started with railroad machinists. Turned into one sorry union after they started enrolling aircraft cleaners and fuelers, etc. They outnumbered aircraft mechanics and it all went downhill from there. I'm retired and miss them like a dirty shirt.
Garrett Fulton
Reply to
Garrett Fulton
I left the assembly line In Everett a little over two years ago for greener pastures. The bulk of the folks on the line had job titles like "mechanical assembler/installer" and such. The next point I have to make is a question: What's a machinist? Purely rhetorical, but the union helped define the job, and it's a general term used to describe the union represented hourly workers assembling the airplanes. As far as precision work, various parts of the airplane have different tolerances. Hole diameters +/- .003" for the most common fasteners, some tighter depending on the fastener. Structural tolerances usually .030", but as other posters have mentioned, since the airplane is so damn big, hand fitting is a given for a lot of stuff. Some sections of structure are shot in with a laser to get really good alignment, and most inspectorss carry a set of feeler gauges down to .001. As anyone who has done precision assembly work knows, some parts of your task can be "sloppy" and some have to be better than the drawing. It just depends. All of us had files of different types and sizes and drill bits and reamers were available with just about every size imaginable, and most folks use the decimal size more than the letter or number size because a thou or worn drill bit makes a huge difference in how some fasteners fit. The tools used are a variety, from generic drills and torquing tools to highly complex and precise drilling tools that take two or more people to move and mount to the jig. I can't begin to describe the myriad of tools we used, drill jigs, assembly jigs, and so forth. The folks who made the tooling we used had incredibly tight tolerances, as stackup was intolerable. Those guys are more machinists in my eyes than the assemblers, but as their rates continued to go up in what they felt was a captive customer, they got outsourced and dramatically slashed in manpower. That's why I think the 737R (replacement) which has been put on hold will likely wind up in the Southeast rather than here in Washington State, given the high labor rates here and the lower required assembly skills being engineered into all new products.
Reply to
Carl M

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