Takes First Step Towards Closing Long Beach Plant
It looks to only be a matter of time before aircraft production
leaves Southern California for good... as Boeing announced Friday
it is taking the first steps towards closing its last facility in
Long Beach, which produces the mammoth C-17 Globemaster III
military transport plane.
Boeing told the Los Angeles Times it began notifying C-17
suppliers to stop producing parts for the aircraft this week... and
was expected to inform the approximately 5,500 workers in Long
Beach at a meeting this morning.
Due to the long lead time required to inform all suppliers,
Boeing had said it expected to reach a decision on the plant's
future by August, although the company has enough orders for the
C-17 to keep the plant open for the next three years.
Those orders appear to be the last for the capable military
transport, however -- as the Pentagon hasn't ordered more C-17s,
despite pleadings from local, state, and federal officials.
Just this week, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote
to President Bush to ask for more funding for the C-17... saying
the program "has a multibillion-dollar impact on the local economy"
and that the C-17 "plays an essential role in military operations
and the global war on terror," according to the Times.
Without any new orders, Boeing has paid about $100 million out
of its own pocket to keep the assembly line moving. Originally, the
USAF ordered 222 C-17s... but later scaled that number back to 180,
due to budget constraints.
While the end may be in sight for the C-17, the aircraft's
public presence has become much larger in the past year -- after
high-profile missions ferrying food and other supplies in the
aftermath of the 2005 hurricanes. The aircraft is also used to
carry troops and cargo throughout the globe, most notably in Iraq
"The C-17 is one of the Defense Department's most successful
acquisition programs ever," said Ron Marcotte, vice president and
general manager of Boeing Global Mobility Systems. "No one
questions its operational value. But we can't continue carrying the
program without additional orders from the US Government."
The decision to scale back parts for the C-17 comes three months
after the final two Boeing 717s left the
company's commercial plant in Long Beach. Like the
Globemaster III, Boeing inherited that program -- and the plant --
following its 1997 buyout of McDonnell Douglas.