Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Boeing in effect permanently shuttered its Moscow Design Center, formerly the company’s preeminent overseas engineering facility that at one time housed about 1,500 engineers.
“Right now, it’s gone,” said Lynne Hopper, Boeing vice president of engineering strategy and operations.
Since the summer, Boeing has been facilitating travel for about 100 Russian engineers and their families who wanted out — a process now complete — and is arranging jobs for them at its facilities in other countries.
Meanwhile, the company took extraordinary steps to maintain and protect its team in Ukraine and their families.
When the Russians invaded, “we wanted to make sure that each of those employees were safe, that they had access to cash, to heat, food, water,” Hopper said.
Internal Boeing documents obtained by The Seattle Times provide for the first time a detailed picture of the company’s Commercial Airplanes engineering work outside the U.S. and how that has changed due to the war in Ukraine.
“When we lost all of the engineering talent in Russia, we had to pull that work back and place it at other global sites and domestically,” Hopper said. “So we’re investing in setting up engineering centers now in Poland and Brazil, which we didn’t formerly have.”
No location expanded more this year than India, making it now Boeing’s largest foreign center.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes projects employing more than 1,100 engineers in Bangalore and Chennai this year. Adding other Boeing divisions, the company said it expects to have a total of more than 4,000 engineers there by year-end.
The growth overseas is part of a Boeing hiring spree globally and domestically.
“In total, we will hire approximately 9,000 engineers across both our domestic and international engineering sites by the end of this year,” Boeing said.
That hiring must counter not only the loss of the engineering center in Moscow but also a brain drain this fall of hundreds of highly experienced U.S. engineers who retired early to avoid a hit to their pension payout.
Boeing declined to provide the projected net change for the year in total number of engineers, saying it won’t “speculate on attrition numbers.”
In July, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Stan Deal insisted that even as his division places engineering work elsewhere, it will retain its center of gravity in the Seattle area.
“We’ll still have major developmental hubs like Puget Sound,” Deal said then.
Bill Dugovich, spokesperson for Boeing’s white-collar union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, is not mollified.
“All these engineering centers have jobs that were at one time jobs in the U.S.,” Dugovich said. “It’s always a concern when the company shuns U.S. engineers and moves work elsewhere.”
Hopper makes no apologies, noting that Boeing has been competing against Big Tech companies and multiple space and electric airplane startups to hire U.S. engineers.
“We definitely are in the war for talent for engineers, both domestically and globally,” she said. “It’s been a very competitive talent market, especially here in Puget Sound.”
“We’re interested in talent wherever that exists globally that can help us with our mission at Boeing,” Hopper concluded. “That’s why we’re in countries like India and Ukraine and Poland and Brazil and almost every country in the world.”
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