Gov. Gregoire wields a rivet gun, flies a 787, during aerospace day
By DEAN RADFORD
Renton Reporter Editor
June 20, 2012 · Updated 2:00 PM
Gov. Chris Gregoire received high praise Wednesday.
"That's a good-looking hole," said her classroom partner, Michael Bourgeois, who is training to become an aerospace assembly mechanic at Renton Technical College.
Bourgeois says he never expected to be drilling holes with the governor of the state.
But, on Wednesday Gregoire wanted to see the production of an airplane from start to finish, beginning with an aerospace classroom at RTC, followed by a visit to the 737 production plant in Renton and finally time in a flight simulator.
"The whole day is about learn it, build it and fly it, and what the aerospace industry means to the state of Washington" said Gregoire Wednesday morning before she headed out for the rest of her tour.
"Puget Sound has now been ranked the No. 1 manufacturing region in the country and in large part that's due to aerospace," she said.
The aerospace program at RTC is all about ensuring "Boeing continues to have the highest-skilled workers," she said.
Gregoire started her day at about 8 a.m., sitting with the other students in front of instructor Howard Blinder, who went over the goals for the project. Each student had a partner; Bourgeois sat with her.
The students are learning how to assemble jetliners. Their tools are drills and rivet guns, used to install the fasteners that keep an airplane together.
The students had already done preparation online; now was the time for the hands-on experience.
It's precise work and noisy. Most everyone wore earplugs and safety glasses. Boeing has donated thousands of dollars work of tools to the program.
Gregoire was intense, listening closely to directions from Blinder and following Bourgeois's lead.
She drilled a pilot hole.
"What took me so long," she asked.
Bourgeois told her the material was thicker.
RTC President Steve Hanson took tool in hand, too, to get a feel for the job.
Gregoire took a few minutes to visit with the students.
Blinder told Gregoire that the skills the students are learning at RTC put them at the front of the line for a job interview. Job placement continues to increase, he told her.
At the end of her stay in the class, Blinder presented her with a certificate. Gregoire laughed; she got a O for class credit.
Outside the classroom, Gregoire said she was a little nervous about working with the tools.
"That's not my thing," she said. "I push papers."
She "loved" the work, calling it exciting and hard.
"No one should go in there believing it's easy," she said, pointing out the work is precise.
Is it a job for women?
"I did it," she said, calling out the iconic Rosie the Riveter who helped build airplanes at the Boeing plant in Renton during World War II.
A poster of Rosie hangs over the classroom.
Contact Renton Reporter Editor Dean Radford at email@example.com or 1-425-255-3484 (ext 5050).