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Made in Mexico

Aerospace jobs south of the border? Yes, and it's been that way for a long time.

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The C&D Zodiac facility in Tijuana. (Photo: PIMSA)

With the heightened political sensitivities during the presidential campaign season, it was fairly predictable that an invitation from Boeing to some of its suppliers to attend a workshop on aerospace manufacturing in Mexico would set off a rhubarb among the various stakeholders. Boeing is not affiliated with either U.S. political party, and the invite had no partisan implications.

But Boeing is a political hot button in itself, and both political parties know that. What voters need to know is that there has been low-level aerospace manufacturing in Mexico for a long time, and placing work there is no different than the offsets in other countries, where Boeing has spread its 787 program, in particular, all over the map. It does this for competitive reasons, and so does Airbus. By sharing the work with customer nations, Boeing “offsets” some of the cost to its customers when they buy its airplanes. Japan has been a loyal Boeing customer since World War II, and its heavy industries build the wings, the center wing box and parts of the fuselage for the 787, while its airlines, Japan Air Lines and All Nippon, were the first to order the airplane and put it into service, with the first JAL flight from Tokyo to Boston last April.

Mexico is a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and has been manufacturing parts for U.S. automobiles as well as assembling VWs (and soon, Audis) along with Isuzus for domestic consumption.

Cessna Aircraft, a division of Textron, operates a facility in Chihuahua that makes sheet metal assemblies and wire harnesses for Citation jets. MD Helicopters, owned by Patriarch Partners, a New York holding company, uses parts made by another Patriarch company in Mexico.

Boeing has a long history of testy labor relations, and the unions that represent some of its workers are strident in opposing any work share that’s not performed by their members. But the heavy final-assembly work at Boeing is, has been, will be located in the United States for some time to come.

About George C. Larson

George C. Larson served as editor of Air & Space from 1985 to 2005. He is currently an inactive pilot, but holds a commercial pilot's license, with instrument and multi-engine ratings. He is between airplanes at this time, but has owned or operated a Grumman American AA-5B Tiger and a Mooney 201. He has been writing about aviation since 1972, when he joined the staff of Flying Magazine.

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