Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) has announced it will cut 1,500-1,700 engineering and technical jobs this year, because non-recurring development work on the 747-8, 787-9 and KC-46 Tanker programs is slowing down and the 787-10X and 777X projects that might have taken up the slack are not yet approved.

The layoff notice follows a similar announcement last month affecting machinists. Boeing says machinist ranks will be thinned by 800 through the end of the year, mostly because post-production work known as change incorporation on the 787 and 747-8 programs is drying up.

Normally, the engineers and technical workers associated with the 747-8, 787 and KC-46 would be able to shift to new development work, but BCA’s chief engineer and vice president Mike Delaney tells employees that it cannot be done this time. Even assuming approval of a new program this summer, the time lag between the official program launch and work starting up is too long to sustain the engineering employment, a Boeing official says.

The effect of fewer developmental efforts has already been felt. Since last October, the company has cut nearly 700 contract employees. That effort will continue “where appropriate,” Delaney says.

As of March 31, BCA employed 84,085 people, down nearly 670 from Dec. 31, 2012. Total current Boeing Co. employment stands at 173,062, and is expected to remain flat through 2013.

The first 60-day layoff notices to engineers and technicians will be issued April 19, affecting 100 workers in BCA’s Manufacturing Engineering sector who are scattered throughout its Puget Sound campuses that surround Seattle.

“Those employees are the first to receive layoff notices because they directly support the production system, which has been stabilizing in parts of our major development programs,” Delaney says.

The company says as many as 600 additional staff will be included in the current cycle of layoffs but has not revealed where they are located.

“I realize this news may be surprising,” Delaney acknowledges. “Commercial Airplanes has been on an upswing for several years. We continue to ramp up production on our major programs and the prospect for future development work is very positive.” However, it is “too far out for us to maintain present levels of employment.”

The news brought a swift reaction from the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (Speea), which represents the engineers and technical workers.

“We find it extremely disappointing that [BCA] is actively outsourcing engineering work to the Moscow Design Center while laying off employees in the [Pacific] Northwest,” says Speea Executive Director Ray Goforth.

A Boeing official says Moscow employment also has declined. He says hiring “in critical areas” across BCA will continue, but he declines to be specific.

Speea says it is working with Boeing managers to try to find new positions within Boeing for those getting pink slips.