C-17 shutdown to impact 300 Macon workers

Robins to shift focus from production to sustainment

wcrenshaw@macon.comSeptember 19, 2013 

Boeing is shutting down its C-17 Globemaster production line, impacting about 300 workers at its Macon plant.

How many of those employees will actually lose their jobs is uncertain. Boeing spokeswoman Cindy Anderson said some may be offered jobs at other plants, and some may shift to other positions at the Macon plant. The company also has plans to continue its supply and spare parts program at least through 2017. Boeing announced the C-17 shutdown Wednesday.

“At this time it’s really hard to tell,” she said.

The Macon plant employs about 500 people and produces parts for the nose and wings on the C-17. The plant also builds replacement wings for the A-10 Thunderbolt attack plane and parts for the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

Last week Boeing delivered the last of 223 C-17s to the U.S. Air Force. That had already been planned and was unrelated to current budget cuts.

However, Boeing officials said automatic cuts known as sequestration influenced the decision because those cutbacks impacted its suppliers. The biggest reason cited for the shutdown is the world economy leading to insufficient orders from other nations to keep the production going.

The final assembly plant in Long Beach, Calif., is scheduled for shutdown in 2015, which will impact as many as 2,000 jobs there. The Macon plant supplies components, and employees here may start getting layoff notices early next year.

“The impacts will definitely be sooner in Macon because Long Beach is the final assembly,” Anderson said.

Robins Air Force Base does overhaul maintenance on the planes, but the end of the Air Force orders won’t impact the base much. The planes are still relatively new, and maintenance will need to continue for many years. The planes come in for overhaul every five years.

The primary difference at Robins is that program managers will now shift focus from production to sustainment of the cargo plane, which has been a vital component of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We have been concentrating on sustainment for a long time,” Col. David Morgan, who leads the program office at Robins, said in a release. “This isn’t a big change.”

According to a Boeing release, it has 22 C-17s to complete, including seven for the Indian Air Force, two for an international customer that was not named, and 13 that have not yet been sold.

The massive C-17 first flew in 1991, and military deliveries began about two years later. It can carry tanks, supplies and troops, and also does medical evacuations.

“Ending C-17 production was a very difficult but necessary decision,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, in a news release. “We want to thank the highly skilled and talented employees who have built this great airlifter for more than two decades. ... The C-17 remains the world’s most capable airlifter with unmatched readiness and cost effectiveness.”

About 3,000 Boeing employees are involved in C-17 production at four plants, including those in Mesa, Ariz., and St. Louis. More than 650 suppliers in 44 states support C-17 production, providing 20,000 jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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