March 8, 2013 at 5:53 PM ET
NEW YORK - Boeing Co. said on Friday it is consolidating its North American flight and maintenance training operations in Miami, a shift that will move all flight simulators for the 787 Dreamliner and other aircraft out of the Seattle area.
Miami is the company's largest flight-training center and is preferred by airlines based in Latin America, as well as the United States, Middle East and Europe, Boeing said.
Boeing spokesman Jim Condelles said the relocation will affect some flight services employees, but it wasn't yet clear whether it would lead to layoffs or relocations.
Boeing said the plan to relocate 787 training to Miami was first announced in 2008, as part of its plan to move training centers closer to where airlines need them.
"With the 787 grounded, there's a lessening of the training demand," Condelles said. "There's an opportunity with that situation to relocate to Miami."
He said the two 787 simulators that will be moved are expected to be reassembled and certified by regulators during the summer. In the meantime, Boeing will rely on 787 simulators in London, Singapore and Shanghai.
The shift comes amid a growing need for pilot training. Boeing's current forecast says the global aviation industry will need 460,000 new pilots and 601,000 new maintenance technicians in the next 20 years.
The shift also comes as Boeing's flight training pilots, the Airplane Manufacturing Pilots Association, are in contract talks with the company. The bargaining unit is represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA).
The union said the simulators are an integral part of the airplane production and customer support functions in Seattle and are used by engineers.
"Moving these valuable tools thousands of miles from the engineering heart of Boeing is another example of (Boeing) treating engineering as secondary rather than a core function of the company," said Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA.
Condelles said the relocation was a business decision unrelated to the talks. "It's nothing to do with labor costs or work rules," he said.
The company already had closed locations in Dallas; Louisville, Ky.; Long Beach, Calif.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.