Boeing drone moves into production at Cecil Airport
Oct 3, 2014
Jensen Werley and Timothy Gibbons
Jacksonville Business Journal

The Boeing QF-16, a drone which is being constructed at Cecil Airport, has finished its testing phase and has moved into initial production.

The former F-16 aircraft are being converted into aerial targets that will be used as target practice by Air Force planes, according to Yvonne Johnson-Jones, senior communications manager at Boeing.

Before the aircraft could enter production, the company had to demonstrate that they could work without pilots, said Johnson-Jones. Preparation for that testing has been done at Cecil since 2010, with the drone recently undergoing live-fire tests and its first pilotless flights at White Sands. After that, the company won the Air Force contract for low-rate initial production.

Six F-16s were converted as proof of concept.

"Now that those tests have been completed, it's validated what we were trying to do," she said.

In an unrelated move, Boeing plans to bring 25 front-office support and service personnel to Jacksonville as part of a relocation of personnel from Washington state. Those employees will work on the Navy's P-8 Poseidon project, for which the company has received several recent contract modifications .

"It allows us to be closer to the customer and better attend to their needs," she said. "With jobs that are transferring there, it makes sense from a time zone perspective, working on the same timetable. We can better respond to them."