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Douglas in Bid to Buy Facility for C-17 Parts

September 14, 1988|RALPH VARTABEDIAN | Times Staff Writer

McDonnell Douglas is negotiating to acquire a 3.4-million-square-foot aircraft plant in Columbus, Ohio, that would be used to produce parts for the C-17 cargo jet that the firm's Douglas Aircraft unit will assemble in Long Beach.

The Columbus facility, owned by the Air Force, was most recently used by Rockwell International to produce large sub-assemblies for its B-1 bomber program. When B-1 production ended earlier this year, the plant was closed and the 7,600 employees were put out of work.

Douglas officials said they face a shortage of factory capacity at their Long Beach and Torrance facilities. The Long Beach plant is on 450 acres adjacent to the Long Beach Airport and includes more than 8 million square feet of factory space, including more than 1 million that have been added recently.

Douglas employs more than 35,000 workers at Long Beach and Torrance, a number that substantially exceeds work force estimates made last year. A Douglas spokesman indicated that several thousand new employees have been added this year alone as a result of growth of both commercial and military programs.

Built Large Hangar

The C-17 is a large Air Force cargo jet on which the government is expected to spend more than $35 billion over the next decade. Douglas has already subcontracted out major portions of the airframe, including an award to Lockheed to build the wings in Palmdale and to LTV to build the horizontal and vertical stabilizer section in Texas.

In addition, Douglas built a large hangar for C-17 assembly last year at the Long Beach Airport that has been outfitted with tooling and machinery. It also has leased several large high-rise towers at the airport.

"Our growth has been something beyond expectations," Douglas spokesman Don Hanson said. "It is getting hard to find a place to put people."

If Douglas acquires the Columbus facility, it would assign 2,500 employees there initially, according to reliable sources.

Douglas officials denied a wire service report from Ohio, which quoted Ohio politicians as saying that the firm would move the entire C-17 program to Ohio.

In addition to the plant, Douglas is negotiating to purchase Rockwell-owned machine tools still in the plant. Rockwell officials declined to estimate the value of the tools.

The last complete aircraft produced at the Columbus plant was the OV-10, a small observation plane that Rockwell made during the 1970s. The F-100 jet fighter of the 1950s was also produced there.

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