Boeing Co. expects to make a decision by the middle of August on whether to close the Long Beach plant that produces the C-17 transport, the aerospace company said Wednesday.
Although the future of the C-17 program is in doubt, "no decision has been made to close the assembly line," Boeing spokesman Rick Sanford said.
Because of the long lead time needed to procure parts from subcontractors, Boeing will decide next month whether to begin the process of shuttering the plant at the end of 2008, he said. The plant, the largest employer in Long Beach with about 5,500 workers, supports about 5,700 jobs at subcontractors around Southern California.
Boeing, along with elected officials in California and Washington, D.C., is trying to persuade the Air Force to order more of the four-engine cargo jets, which are used to ferry troops and supplies to trouble spots around the world.
The company also is energetically marketing the plane abroad and has racked up orders for 12 additional planes from customers such as Canada, which last week said it intended to buy four C-17s.
Boeing has said that it needs more orders to keep the plant open after 2008 -- a position reiterated in a memo sent to employees at the plant last week by program manager David Bowman. The Air Force has said that it doesn't need any more C-17s.