Boeing to close Wichita defense plant, move tanker work to Puget Sound plants

Boeing will close its Wichita, Kan., facility at year's end where it based its defense work on U.S. Air Force refueling tankers, the company announced Wednesday.

Boeing's Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) facility in Wichita  employs more than 2,160 employees. Boeing will assist those employees with retirement planning, employment seminars, financial counseling and help finding job inside Boeing or out.

Boeing Wichita is the base for the company's Global Transport & Executive Systems business which and its B-52 and 767 International Tanker programs, which includes the major contract Boeing received to adapt Everett-built 767s as tankers.

The modifications to the 767 tankers now done in Wichita will switch to one of the company's Puget Sound plans, but the press release didn't specify which one.

"The decision to close our Wichita facility was difficult but ultimately was based on a thorough study of the current and future market environment and our ability to remain competitive while meeting our customers' needs with the best and most affordable solutions," said Mark Bass, vice president and general manager for BDS' Maintenance, Modifications & Upgrades division, in a company press release.

"We recognize how this will affect the lives of the highly skilled men and women who work here, so we will do everything possible to assist our employees, their families and our community through this difficult transition," he said.

Over the past five years, contracts in Wichita have matured, programs have come to a close or are winding down, and the site does not have enough sustainable business on the horizon "to create an affordable cost structure to maintain and win new business," according to the company.

Bass said in the press release that Boeing will continue to have a significant impact on the Kansas economy and the health of the state's aerospace industry.

"The company spent more than $3.2 billion with approximately 475 Kansas suppliers in 2011, spanning its commercial and defense businesses, making it the fourth-largest state in Boeing's supplier network," said Bass. Future aircraft maintenance, modification and support work will be placed at the Boeing facility in San Antonio. Engineering work will be placed at the Boeing facility in Oklahoma City, according to Boeing.


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