Wings Magazine

News
Boeing to close Kansas defence plant

Jan. 4, 2012, Wichita, Kan. - Faced with defence budget reductions, the Boeing Co. announced Wednesday it will close its defence plant in Wichita by the end of 2013.


January 4, 2012
By Carey Fredericks

The closure will cost more than 2,160 workers their jobs and end the firm's presence in a city where it has been a major employer for generations.

The decision was not entirely unexpected. The company said in November it was studying whether to close the Wichita facility, which specializes in modifying commercial aircraft for military or government operations, to address Defence Department budget cuts. The first layoffs are expected to begin in the third quarter of 2012.

The company said it was moving future aircraft maintenance, modification and support to its plant in San Antonio, Texas, and engineering work to Oklahoma City. Work on the Air Force refuelling tanker will be performed in Puget Sound, Wash. The company said the 24 Kansas suppliers on that program will continue to provide parts as originally planned.

"In this time of defence budget reductions, as well as shifting customer priorities, Boeing has decided to close its operations in Wichita to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and drive competitiveness," said Mark Bass, vice-president and general manager for the Boeing Defence, Space & Security facility in Wichita.

Advertisment

The study came even as the Pentagon had been working to prevent $500 billion in automatic, across-the-board defence budget cuts over 10 years in the wake of the failure by a bipartisan congressional
supercommittee to agree on $1.2 trillion or more in deficit reductions.

Wichita had hoped the number of jobs at the facility would grow after Boeing won a contract worth at least $35 billion to build 179 Air Force refuelling tankers. The modification work on the planes had been expected to be done at Boeing's Wichita plant — bringing with it 7,500 direct and indirect jobs with an overall economic impact of nearly $390 million.

Boeing has had a facility in Wichita since it bought the Stearman Aircraft Co. in 1929. During World War II, employment at the plant peaked at more than 40,000 as the company churned out four bombers a day. For decades the company remained the city's largest employer.

The Wichita facility is facing the end of some programs, such as the international tanker program that supplied refuelling tankers to other countries. Over the summer, Boeing announced it would cut 225 jobs at its Wichita defence plant through the end of this year.