Long Beach, CA – Boeing announced today that it will end production of its C-17A Globemaster military transport jet in 2015 and close the Long Beach, California assembly plant. The C-17 is a heavy transport and has become the workhorse of the U.S. Air Force’s airlift fleet in recent years. Boeing recently delivered the last of 223 C-17s ordered by the Air Force and will complete orders for foreign customers by the 2015 deadline. The C-17 is operated by Britain’s Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, NATO’s Strategic Airlift Program, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Indian Air Forces. The closure will mean the loss of nearly 3,000 aerospace jobs in southern California and for the first time since 1941 there will be no commercial aircraft manufactured there. Boeing’s Long Beach plant has a long history, producing most of the Douglas and McDonnell-Douglas aircraft – over 15,000 in all.
The Boeing C-17 program originally began with design and research by McDonnell-Douglas in 1981 and the first units were ready for flight testing in 1991. There were numerous structural and technical issues to be resolved resulting in cost overruns and delays during the mid 1990s but all of these problems were eventually worked out. The first units became operational in 1995. These jets have been used to deliver troops, supplies, vehicles, humanitarian aid, as well as insertion of paratroops around the world, sometimes operating from very short runways. A C-17 also accompanies the President and transports the Presidential limousine and security detachments. Over the past 18 years this aircraft has earned praise for its operational readiness and ability to operate nearly anywhere; the C-17 can land on a 3,000 foot runway and use its thrust reversers to back up.
The Boeing C-17A is powered by four Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines similar to those used on the 757 airliner; the wings are mounted to the top of the fuselage which helps reduce the possibility of foreign object damage to the engines when operating on unfinished runways. In flight, the C-17 is capable of rapid deployment to forward operating bases with a nearly unlimited range thanks to aerial refueling capability. It is flown with a crew of three and has a digital cockpit equipped with heads-up displays for the pilots.
More than 250 C-17s have been built, with 223 operated by the U.S. Air Force. To date there has only been one fatal crash with loss of aircraft (2010 – Elmendorf Air Base, Alaska; pilot error) The C-17 is expected to remain a key part of the U.S. Air Force’s strategic airlift for decades.