LOS ANGELES Boeing Co.s decision to end production of the C-17 Globemaster III military transport and close its Long Beach, Calif., assembly plant in 2015 will mark the exit of one of the largest per-plane consumers of aerospace metals and end a nearly century-long era of major aircraft construction in California.
Dennis Muilenburg, president and chief executive officer of Boeings Defense Space & Security business, said the Chicago-based company has been unable to attract enough foreign buyers to offset the impact of the U.S. Air Force ending its purchase of the 20-year-old plane.
While Boeing had hoped to attract enough overseas interest to keep the program alive, the budgets of foreign governments "cannot support additional purchases in the timing required to keep the production line open," he said.
Boeing had driven the C-17 build rate down to 10 planes per year from 15 per year.
While this rate is small compared with the growing production of Boeings commercial airliners, industry observers said the C-17s large per-plane consumption of metals would nevertheless make a significant impact if additional buyers had been found. Industry estimates place the buy weight of each C-17 at about 800,000 pounds of aluminum and 200,000 pounds of titanium.
In 2011, Pittsburgh-based aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. told AMM that "all of our aerospace businesses" would expect to participate in any additional C-17 sales landed overseas.
Members of United Aerospace Workers union in Long Beach were "shocked, devastated" and "taken off-guard" by Boeings decision, according to Stanley G. Klemchuk, president of union Local 148, which represents about 1,100 employees in Long Beach.
Klemchuk, who said the demise of the C-17 is "totally unexpected," told AMM that the union believed Boeing had "secured enough foreign sales to keep the line warm."
In July 2012, a Boeing executive attending an air show in Europe was reported as saying he was "reasonably bullish" about landing additional orders for the plane.