Monday, April 07, 2014

California: Boeing shutting down C-17 military transport production early

 Boeing will shut down production of the last major aircraft built in California in mid-2015, three months earlier than it had predicted, the company said Monday.

The closure of production at Boeing's 1.1 million-square-foot assembly plant in Long Beach will mark the end of production of large aircraft in California, once the center of the aircraft industry in the United States.

The C-17 Globemaster III, a four-engine military transport, is the last large aircraft built in the state that once boasted large aircraft factories in Santa Monica, Long Beach, San Diego, Burbank and Palmdale.

Boeing built 223 C-17s for the U.S. Air Force as well as multiple transports for Australia, the United Kingdom, NATO, Canada, India, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

The production shutdown will idle some 2,200 workers who work on the C-17 assembly line. Some will be offered jobs at other Boeing facilities.

Boeing acquired the C-17 and the Long Beach aircraft assembly plants when it merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1996.  The C-17, a four-engine, high-wing plane, can carry large military vehicles, combat troops and cargo.

Boeing operated McDonnell-Douglas's commercial airplane production facilities at Long Beach for several years building the Boeing 717 twin jet.  Those production plants had built hundreds of commercial jets including the DC-8, DC-10, MD-11, DC-9, MD-80 and MD-90.

The C-17, which was built in a plant on the opposite side of the Long Beach Airport from the former commercial airliner assembly plant,  is the principal aircraft stationed at Pierce County's Joint Base Lewis McChord.

Boeing reportedly considered using the Long Beach plant as a site to build its upcoming 777X, but decided to build that long-range, twin-engine aircraft at Everett after Machinists Union members agreed to a long-term contract with modest increases in pay and benefits.

The C-17 production halt isn't the only assembly shutdown Boeing is facing.  Unless the company receives more orders for its F/A-18 fighter soon, Boeing may shutter the company's production line in St. Louis, Mo. by 2017.