Boeing workers relieved as company gets $9.7 billion contract to build planes for Air Force

Friday, August 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ News of a $9.7 billion contract to build 60 C-17 transport planes for the Air Force was greeted with enthusiasm and relief by Boeing Co. workers at the Long Beach plant where the planes are assembled.

``We are absolutely ecstatic,'' said Bill Shultz, president of United Aerospace Workers Local 148. ``This is very good news for the Air Force, for Long Beach and the UAW work force, and it's a good plane. It has exceeded all its expectations.''

Boeing won the contract Thursday to build the 60 C-17 Globemaster planes by 2008. Boeing already had a contract to deliver 120 C-17s to the Air Force by the end of 2004; 89 of them have been delivered.

The decision preserves 7,000 jobs in Long Beach, local Boeing officials said. The plant there employs 9,000 people, with some working on other government projects.

Chicago-based Boeing has been eager to land the contract as shrinking orders from the ailing airline industry have hurt its commercial airline business. The company has cut production in half since Sept. 11 and issued layoff notices to about 30,000 workers, most of them in Washington state.

The four-engine C-17, introduced in 1995, is one of the largest cargo planes in the Air Force fleet and has been used extensively to support the war in Afghanistan. With midair refueling, the planes can fly virtually anywhere in the world from bases in the United States and land on relatively short and primitive runways.

In April, Boeing Chairman Phil Condit touted the possibility of an order for more C-17s during the company's annual shareholders' meeting. Congress also has approved a plan allowing the Defense Department to lease 100 Boeing 767s as military refueling tankers and four 737s to carry administration officials and lawmakers.

In addition to the impact on Long Beach, the new contract will extend operations at Boeing plants in St. Louis, Macon, Ga., and Mesa, Ariz.