Glenn Watson was part of the project which converted the commercial 737-NG to the E-74 Wedgetail in 2005. Based at RAAF Base Amberley, he still works on the aircraft. Picture: Cordell Richardson
Glenn Watson was part of the project which converted the commercial 737-NG to the E-74 Wedgetail in 2005. Based at RAAF Base Amberley, he still works on the aircraft. Picture: Cordell Richardson

The journey to convert commercial 737-NG to Wedgetail

GLENN Watson has been working on the Boeing-built E-74 Wedgetail from its initial conversion from the commercial 737-NG.

The Ripley resident, who works out of RAAF Base Amberley, knows the aircraft back to front.

Last month marked ten years of service of the E-7A Airborne Early Warning and Control platform.

The world-leading air battlespace management platform is the flagship of Australia's national air defence capability.

Mr Watson is the maintenance repair and overhaul services operations manager, as part of a team of about 100 at Amberley.

The Wedgetail is capable of communicating with other aircraft to provide air control from the sky and can cover four million square kilometres during a single 10-hour mission.

He became involved in November 2005 to convert the aircraft from commercial to military use.

Standard seats on the 737 are replaced by mission controls and an array of safety equipment is on hand, in case occupants need to deploy or fight fires on board.

"From there we transitioned from doing modification to doing in-service support," he said.

"I've worked not just in this role as the maintenance manager but I'm heavily involved in a lot of the test integrations when we were bringing all these new systems onto the aircraft.

"I got to play with all the toys on the aircraft to see what they did.

"We now do all the deeper level maintenance."

Mr Watson, who grew up in Ipswich, said he loved coming to work every day and was excited for what was to come next.

"(The platform) is a lot bigger than just what we've got here (in Amberley)," he said.

"We're probably talking about 200-300 engineers sitting in the background, supporting new designs.

"We've got some massive upgrades coming in.

"We're going to be taking on more complex mods that's going to allow us to grow our capabilities here at Amberley.

"We're looking at growing what we call backshops to take on manufacturing or fabricating the modification kits that we're physically putting on to the aircraft.

"There's a lot of work coming our way."

Mr Watson said design engineers from Adelaide, Williamtown and Brisbane also played their part on the Wedgetail

"We're not just sitting here and allowing 'mother Boeing' to provide all those new designs for us," he said.

"We're allowing our young engineers to be part of that engineering solution, to come up with these new designs for us to physically put on the aircraft.

"The Wedgetail is home grown … from a design perspective."