It’s 250 feet long, has millions of parts and can put nearly one million pounds into the air. And a number of Oregon State alumni are on the team that’s making the latest version of Boeing’s iconic jumbo jet — the 747-8 — a reality.
Among them is Jeff Klemann, a 1984 mechanical engineering alumnus who is VP of Everett Field Ops and Delivery/AOG at the Everett, Wash. plant where Boeing builds its wide-body jets. He was also in on a closely guarded secret: a striking red-to-orange paint job on the first 747-8 Intercontinental, which came as a big surprise to the nearly 10,000 people attending the plane’s unveiling in February.
“It symbolizes a sunrise,” Klemann says. “We wanted to send a signal that it’s a new airplane, a new beginning for the 747.”
That the newest 747 sports OSU’s school color is a coincidence. But the alumni connections are not.
Several hundred OSU alumni work at Boeing, and Klemann is one of many Oregon State alumni assigned to the 747-8 program. OSU also sends more than 20 engineering students to Boeing every year through the Multiple Engineering Cooperative (MECOP) internship program. One of them is Jared Blake, who completed a MECOP internship in 2009. After graduating in 2010, he went back to Boeing and is now a project manager on the 747-8 program.
Boeing actively recruits OSU graduates, and Klemann recently returned to Corvallis for an engineering career fair. With the economy improving and growing customer demand, the company is increasing the production rate on all of its jetliners. “There’s lots of work, so we come to OSU to hire talented engineers,” Klemann says.
A varied, versatile career
Like the students he came to recruit, Klemann went straight from OSU to Boeing. He still remembers the interview.
“They asked me questions about composites. It was new technology, so I didn’t know much about them,” he recalls. “When I asked what the project was, they said, ‘We can’t tell you. It’s top secret.’ I thought ‘I have to try this.’”
That project turned out to be the B-2 stealth bomber, and within three months, Klemann was making presentations to the U.S. Air Force. “To go straight from college to state-of-the-art materials design was an outstanding experience,” he says.
After working on other military projects, Klemann transitioned to the commercial side, working on the 747, 767 and 777 programs. In his current position, his group gets the airplane after it leaves the factory, where it’s painted, fueled and all of its systems and flight controls are tested and inspected, both on the ground and in the air. Once the airplane receives its airworthiness certificate, it’s ready for delivery.
“That’s the best part of the job, the people you meet from all over the world,” he says. “We deliver airplanes to hundreds of customers, and you’re exposed to different people and cultures. And then they fly home happy.”
New wing, new engines, new efficiencies
Klemann will start meeting those customers later this year when Boeing is scheduled to begin deliveries of the 747-8. And this newest version of the 747 is a much cleaner, more fuel efficient and quieter airplane than its predecessors.
Advanced engines, a more aerodynamic wing design, plus weight-saving alloys and composites allow the 747-8 to use 16 percent less fuel than the previous-generation 747-400. Using less fuel also produces less carbon dioxide, so CO2 emissions are reduced by 16 percent per seat. Nitrogen oxide emissions are reduced even further — 52 percent below international civil aviation limits. Noise levels are 13 decibels below international standards as well.
Klemann says the greater efficiency — which translates into lower operating costs for airlines — and reduced environmental impacts drove much of the design for the 747-8.
Building on the fundamentals
Just as the 747-8 builds on the design of the original 747 in 1969, Klemann has built on the fundamentals he learned at OSU. Not just the principles of engineering, he says, but how to lay out and execute a project and adapt when things don’t go according to plan. He credits a number of student group projects with teaching how to communicate and work as a team. “You have to enter the workplace able to work with people,” he says.
Klemann says OSU also prepares students to continue to learn, something Boeing also emphasizes. “What you know today will be obsolete in five to 10 years. You have to keep growing.”
OSU provides a solid foundation. “You come out of OSU confident and prepared, knowing you can do it; that you can make a difference,” he says. “If you’re pushing technology, being challenged and working with great people, it’s fun. I’m learning every day.”