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Boeing to move commercial plane work from Seattle area to Long Beach

Boeing plans to shift modification work done by 375 people in the Seattle area to its Long Beach plant over the next 18 months.

July 25, 2013|By W.J. Hennigan
  • Long Beach will be home of engineering support for many of Boeing's airplanes and for modifying its older planes to freighter aircraft. The company stopped producing commercial aircraft in Long Beach in 2006, when the last 717 rolled off the line. Above, a worker stands in the tail section of a C–17 Globemaster III -- destined for use by NATO -- at the plant.
Long Beach will be home of engineering support for many of Boeing's… (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles…)

Aerospace giant Boeing Co., which for years has been cutting its workforce in Southern California, announced that the work performed by 375 people in the Puget Sound region around Seattle is being moved to Long Beach over the next 18 months.

Tim Copes, the company's vice president of commercial aviation fleet services, wrote in a note to employees Thursday that the business of modifying Boeing's commercial airplanes will gradually shift to the Southland.

Boeing said it did not know exactly how many jobs the shift from the Seattle area would mean for Southern California yet, but it is the second big announcement this year by the company involving the facility located near Long Beach Airport.

In May, the Chicago plane maker said 300 engineering support jobs would come to the region, as well as the establishment of a new engineering design center for commercial aircraft.

"That's good news for Long Beach," Mayor Bob Foster said. "Boeing is going to have a great future here.... The company is part of our heritage."

It is a surprising announcement from Boeing, which has 1,200 commercial engineers in Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach. The company's commercial work in Southern California has dwindled over the years.

The Long Beach plant was built by Douglas Aircraft Co. and still has a large "Fly DC Jets" sign in front. It thrived for decades, employing thousands and producing some of the world's most popular airliners, including the DC-3, DC-8 and MD-80.

Boeing stopped producing commercial aircraft there in 2006, when the last 717 rolled off the line. It was a plane that Boeing inherited when it acquired McDonnell Douglas Corp. in 1997, but the 717, originally called the MD-95, never caught on with major airlines.

With Thursday's announcement, Long Beach will be home of engineering support for many of its airplanes and for modifying its older planes to freighter aircraft.

"The extended freighter conversions team already has a major presence in Long Beach, and we will continue to evaluate other specific opportunities in Southern California to determine what is best for our business," Copes said in his note.

Military work done in Long Beach currently includes assembly of the C-17 cargo jet for the Air Force.

With 19,289 workers, California still has the most Boeing employees of any state other than Washington, where it was founded. But the workforce is a far cry from 10 years ago, when it hovered around 35,000 workers and Boeing was the largest private employer in Southern California.

William.hennigan@latimes.com

twittter: @wjhenn

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