JACKSON -- It is one very large video game.
"It gives you a good idea and feel of what's it like to be in the 767 tanker," says Boeing representative and retired pilot Glenn Hanbey on Friday, as he walks reporters through a simulation of the plane-maker giant's newest design -- the NewGen Tanker, a plane capable of refueling other aircraft in mid-air.
"That way, airplanes don't have to refuel at different bases," says Jeff Flagel, a director with Boeing. "Especially if they're en route in combat."
How does it work? In a nutshell, a boom extends off the back of the tanker. The plane in need of fuel latches on and takes what it needs.
But Boeing hasn't actually produced the NewGen tankers yet. It has to win a government contract for them first.
And its competition is tough -- Airbus, a French company already cited by the World Trade Organization for receiving bilions of dollars in subsidies from the French government in order to drive down its prices.
It's why Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and a team from Boeing (along with their simulator, which sits in a trailer that is touring across the country), were in Jackson Friday at parts-maker Eaton Corporation."
"This will help this plant be able to continue and be successful and get additional product and go forward," Stabenow told reporters after delivering an address to hundreds of Eaton workers. "And it will add additional jobs around Michigan."
Four-hundred-and-fifty of them, in fact, as Boeing plans to contract with parts-makers around the state -- if it wins the contract.
"We have to make sure this process is fair," Stabenow told the crowd.
If Boeing loses?
"If Boeing doesn't get the program, there's a chance of some reductions here," says Andy Weeks, a vice president with Eaton.
A scary thought in a city already wracked by unemployment.