Triumph Group Inc., Berwyn, Pennsylvania, is winding down its parts production for The Boeing Company’s iconic 747 jumbo jet. The company, which produced fuselages and wing components at its factory in Hawthorne, California, was originally commissioned to build frames for the jumbo jetliner following an initial order placed by Pan American World Airways in 1966.
The jumbo jet opened international travel to the mass consumer market when it was introduced in 1970, but four-engine jets have since fallen from favor as airlines switched to more efficient twin-engine models like the Boeing 777.
With its life as a new-production passenger jet behind it, the 747 has seen its fortunes in recent years tied directly to the cargo market. Most of the unfilled orders left for the 747 are slated to go to United Parcel Service (UPS).
As operations at the plant come to a close, remediation and demolition contractor Resource Environmental was brought in to clear out several wings of the facility. While the original Hawthorne plant spanned more than 1,000,000 square feet and employed over 500 employees when it was in full operation, Triumph currently employs 20, with an additional 80 contractors working on-site.
Making way for a new owner
To accomplish the challenging task of removing equipment and fixtures from the site, Long Beach, California-based Resource Environmental opted to bring in a rubber-tracked Link-Belt 245 X4 excavator equipped with a Genesis GXT 225R mobile shear.
“It might seem like an unconventional solution on the surface, but what an amazing piece of equipment,” Resource Environmental Principal and COO Richard Miller says. “The combination of a compact, 56,000-pound machine and stick-mounted shear are perfect for the job, in terms of site safety and efficiency. We’re getting the work done much faster with more debris abatement control than we would have by using more traditional types of demolition methods.”
Located in Placentia, California, equipment dealer Bejac Corp. supports Resource Environmental’s efforts.
“We’re ready to make sure that Richard has all the backing he needs to get the project done on time,” Bejac Sales Manager Curt Geisbush says. “We’ve worked closely with the Resource Environmental team for several years and have supplied them with a number of Link-Belt machines along with Genesis shears and concrete processors.”
Resource Environmental is leveraging this equipment to quickly and safely remove all the equipment and fixtures that Triumph used to manufacture the 172-foot fuselage sections and other structural components of the Boeing 747s.
“We have less than six months to get this done,” Miller says, “and we need to make sure the site is ready for quick occupancy by its new owner.”
While time is of the essence, Miller says that safe operation remains the company’s chief focus on the project.
“At Resource, production and schedule do not take precedence over health and safety,” Miller explains. “Our program has a zero-accident focus—one injury is one too many. This zero-accident philosophy is shared by all employees, from top management down.”
To the stars
Despite being repurposed, the Hawthorne facility still has a bright future ahead. The new owner, Space Exploration Technologies Corp.—better known as SpaceX—is an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company that was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.
SpaceX already has a headquarters location in Hawthorne, where it has developed several launch vehicles including the Starlink satellite constellation and the Dragon spacecraft.
Aided by Resource Environmental’s work, this facility will once again help its occupants find new horizons, albeit ones that extend well beyond the atmospheric boundaries of its predecessor.