Photo illustration of a KC-46 aerial refueling tanker with F-15E Strike… (Boeing Co. )
Boeing Co. announced plans to close its long-standing facility in Wichita, Kan., where the company works on B-52 Stratofortress bombers and aerial refueling tankers.
The company’s historic facility in Wichita has played a large role in city’s claim to be the Air Capital of the World. During World War II, the Boeing complex churned out B-29 Superfortress bombers and later the larger B-52s.
More than 2,160 people are employed at the facility. Boeing said work will gradually be scaled down before it is officially closed by the end of next year.
The move could be a harbinger of things to come in the defense industry. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is slated to preview plans to trim $450 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years.
“The decision to close our Wichita facility was difficult but ultimately was based on a thorough study of the current and future market environment and our ability to remain competitive,” Mark Bass, a Boeing vice president, said in a statement. “We recognize how this will affect the lives of the highly skilled men and women who work here, so we will do everything possible to assist our employees, their families and our community through this difficult transition.”
In February, Boeing won a high-profile contest against European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force. At the time, the company pledged 7,500 jobs to Kansas.
Workers at the Wichita plant had planned on decades of work modifying 767 jets into flying gas stations for the nation’s fleet of bomber and fighter jets.
On Wednesday, Boeing said it will move the work to its facilities in Oklahoma, Texas and Washington.
The announcement “outraged” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) who released a statement that said just 10 months ago he joined Boeing executives to celebrate Boeing’s victory.
“The fact that Boeing is now refusing to honor its commitment to the people of Kansas is greatly troubling to me and to thousands of Kansans who trusted that Boeing’s promise would be kept,” he said. “A company so much a part of the Wichita community for 80 years should not make this decision lightly. I strongly urge Boeing’s senior leaders to reconsider this decision that will have a devastating impact on hundreds of Kansas families.”
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