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'A quest to make it just right'

Flight system instructor: 'Scrambling'

James Stokes aboard one of Boeing's CH-47s in Philadelphia, a specially dedicated instruction model called a Composite Maintenance Trainer  


James Stokes


I work for the Boeing Company in Philadelphia. We build aircraft for military applications.

I work for the Tandem Rotor Customer Training Department. In my department, we have a variety of specialties -- we train international and U.S. military organizations on how to operate and troubleshoot the equipment their particular CH-47 Chinook Helicopters are outfitted with.

I'm an avionics/electrical/advanced control system instructor and I work with a variety of customers. My main function is training in communication, navigation, radar and special-mission equipment.

Years in position

I've been with The Boeing Company since December 6, 1999.


graphic That new copter isn't worth much if your people can't fly it. Which is where James Stokes' job comes in. Does your work involve teaching others, but not in a traditional school setting?

Yes. Most of my work is training.
Fifty-fifty. I train but only as part of my job.
Nope, I do no training at work.
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I'm 33 and don't really know my sign. I was born on June 5, 1968, if that helps.


I graduated from Gideon High School in Gideon, Missouri, in 1986.

How did you get your current job?

This is a very interesting question. I was the avionics/electrical instructor for the MH-47E and had skills that the Boeing Company needed. I was contacted by a friend and asked if I would be interested in working for Boeing. The rest is history. I took the offer from Boeing and here I am.

How many hours do you work per week?

I typically work first shift from 7 a.m. to 3:42 p.m. We get 42 minutes for lunch. But it varies when the workload changes.

What's the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

I give my e-mail a quick "once-over" and start training course-ware development.

What time do you have lunch? What do you usually eat?

Lunch is typically designated from 11:30 a.m. to 12:12 p.m. but it's pretty much dictated by the workload. It's fairly flexible. We have a cafeteria here at Boeing in Philly and they serve a big variety. So, I can get pretty much what I want.


There's always a short-order line to get burgers and pizza. But we also have several main-menu lines that serve anything from pot roast to salmon. It's actually really good food we're privy to in our cafeteria.

What time do things get tense around the office? What makes it that way?

Things get tense around the time a deadline draws near. What makes it tense is everyone scrambling to get things finished before we start training.

If you're having a good day at work, what is it that makes it good?

I work with a really great group of people in the entire Tandem Rotor group. But, there are only four people currently on the program I'm working on -- my lead and three co-workers. We have a fantastic work relationship. The lead just tells us what needs to be accomplished, and we go do it. It's that simple.

I'd have to say that every day is pretty good. It would be hard to distinguish a good day from a bad one because quite honestly I haven't had a really bad day yet.

graphicThat 42-minute lunch

When "Jimbo" Stokes told us he gets 42 minutes for lunch, we couldn't resist asking Jack Satterfield, Boeing's senior manager of communications in Philadelphia, what the deal is.

"The Boeing Philadelphia work schedule," Satterfield tells us, "was set originally in the union contract so that Vertol workers in the plant at Morton, from which we moved in 1962, would have time to leave the plant and catch the commuter train at the nearby station. That schedule has been carried over in subsequent contracts for decades, largely as a matter of custom.

How much work, if any, do you take home?

For this I would have to say "some." I take some things home because a lot of the programs I use at work I use at home and I discover a new way to "fix" a piece of artwork or manipulate certain things at work and I expand on them at home. I don't have to take it home but sometimes curiosity and creativity get the best of me and I can't put it down. It becomes a quest to make it just right, if you can relate.

What does your work contribute to society?

This is kind of tough to answer because, as I mentioned earlier, we build military aircraft at my facility. For society in general, I'd say Boeing is a very large percentage of the local employment in the area of the company's facility. Globally, I couldn't even begin to comment on the contribution this company makes.

Do you expect to finish your working life in this career?

The Boeing Company builds aircraft, and I really enjoy being in the aviation field, so I'd have to say yes. I'll most likely retire in this line of work.

If you could have two more careers, what would they be?

Boeing's 2001 earnings have been revised to an estimated $58 billion and are forecast to be more than $62 billion in 2002. The world's largest aerospace company operates its rotorcraft facility -- and home to the CH-47 Chinook, V-22 Osprey, Apache and RAH-66 Comanche -- at Ridley Park, 20 minutes from Philadelphia. And we met James "Jimbo" Stokes when he used our submission form to tell us about his work. Click here to clue us in about your Day on the Job.

Web-site development and computer programming.

What's an unforgivable trait in a colleague?

Negativity. Someone who has a glass that's "half empty" all the time and can't seem to see the positive side of anything.

What do you do to relieve stress?

I play a lot computer games, watch television and let my kids beat me up.

What have you been reading lately?

This is another tough one. I read a lot of technical stuff. Lately, the theory of ring laser gyros. I don't read a lot of books.

When you have one of those days on which you don't think you can face the job again, what is it that gets you out the door in the morning and off to work?

My wife can always find some way to motivate me. She's one of those people who can find something positive in every situation, no matter how bad it might seem.



• Boeing rotorcraft

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