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Northrop Plans to Add Workers to Handle Surge in Production

September 12, 1996|JAMES F. PELTZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Surging orders for Boeing Co. airplanes will lead Northrop Grumman Corp., a key Boeing supplier, to call back or hire about 900 workers nationwide this year to handle the increased production, a Northrop spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Century City-based Northrop, which makes a variety of subassemblies for Boeing's family of jetliners, said the hiring would boost overall employment by 12% at its five commercial aircraft plants, including its site in Hawthorne.

The other plants are in Dallas; Stuart, Fla.; and in Perry and Milledgeville, Ga.

The division's employment should reach 8,140 by the end of the year, and "we'll be continuing to recall at least through April," said Georgia Engle, a spokeswoman at the Dallas-based division.

The Hawthorne plant, which builds fuselages for Boeing's 747 jumbo jet, expects to add 200 workers by year-end, lifting its total work force to 1,150, she said. The plant is in the process of doubling its monthly production of fuselages to four from two.

The upswing in commercial aircraft business comes at an opportune time for Northrop, which is winding down production of the B-2 stealth bomber and laying off B-2 workers, most of them in Southern California.

Northrop, the nation's fifth-largest defense contractor, derives about 15% of its total sales from its commercial aircraft group. And like other aircraft suppliers, Northrop is benefiting from a sharp increase in commercial jetliner sales this year.

Industry leader Boeing has continued to dominate other airplane assemblers with a spree of billion-dollar sales this year. For instance, at the Farnborough air show in England earlier this month, Boeing announced orders for more than 70 airplanes--many of them 747s--valued in excess of $7.5 billion.

Northrop's plant in Dallas, which makes tail parts for the 747, 757 and 767 airliners, expects to add 500 jobs by year's end, Engle said. The factory began recalling laid-off workers in May.

"We'll be up close to the 5,000 [employee] mark by the end of the year" in Dallas, she said.

Boeing also is mulling over plans to develop a stretched version of the 747, and it has held exploratory talks with Northrop about building subassemblies for that aircraft as well.

Boeing's main rival, Airbus Industrie of Europe, also has talked with Northrop about becoming a partner in Airbus' plan to build a giant commercial airplane, or "superjumbo" jet, that would seat 550 people or more.

Business News contributed to this report.

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