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Boeing to stop C-17 output ahead of schedule

Keywords: Tags  Boeing, C-17 Globemaster III, aerospace, aluminum, titanium, Dennis Muilenburg, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Boeing Co. is ending output of the C-17 Globemaster III earlier than originally planned, cutting off production of one of the largest per-plane consumers of aerospace aluminum and titanium.

Boeing, which last year said it would end production of the giant military transport late next year, disclosed this week that output at its Long Beach, Calif., plant will instead end in mid-2015.

The early shutdown means that three planes Boeing had expected to produce before the program ends "won’t be built," according to a company spokeswoman in Long Beach.

When Boeing opted to end production of the plane last year, Dennis Muilenburg, president and chief executive officer of Boeing’s Defense Space & Security business segment, said the Chicago-based parent company was unable to attract enough foreign buyers for the plane, which first flew in 1991 but has seen its overall usage dwindle to a trickle (, Sept. 19, 2013).

Boeing in September delivered the last of 223 C-17s to the U.S. Air Force, which has said it won’t buy any more of the transports.

The spokeswoman said 10 C-17s will be built this year and seven in 2015, with five going to India, one to Kuwait and the remainder to undisclosed foreign buyers.

Each C-17 had a buy weight of about 800,000 pounds of aerospace aluminum alloy and 200,000 pounds of mainly 6-aluminum/4-vanadium standard aerospace titanium, according to estimates by market sources. By this rough measure, the early production cutoff means the program’s overall requirement will lower—by about 2.4 million pounds of aluminum and 600,000 pounds of titanium—than if the full number of planes were built as envisioned last year.

"It was one of the biggest users out there," an aluminum industry executive said, noting that its per-plane consumption of aluminum was second only to the estimated 2 million pounds of buy weight in each Airbus A380, generally considered the largest airliner being built today.

While the Boeing spokeswoman was unable to comment on the metals or other raw materials consumed by the C-17 program, market sources said they assume that the raw materials for the remaining planes have already been purchased.

The end of the C-17 program also would mark the end of the 100-year history of transport aircraft production in California that began nearly a century ago when Donald Douglas started Douglas Aircraft Co. in Santa Monica, Calif., and which first began building planes in Long Beach during World War II. The company eventually became McDonnell Douglas Corp., which was acquired by Boeing in 1997.

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