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Boeing will shut down C-17 plant in Long Beach earlier than expected

C-17 cargo jet production in Long Beach was scheduled to end in late 2015.  Now, Boeing says it's likely to come three months sooner.
C-17 cargo jet production in Long Beach was scheduled to end in late 2015. Now, Boeing says it's likely to come three months sooner.
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Boeing announced Monday that it will end production of the C-17 Globemaster and close its final assembly facility in Long Beach three months earlier than originally anticipated. 

The 2200 Californians who work in support of building the cargo jet have known since last September that production will end next year.  Boeing initially estimated that end late in 2015, but now says a summer shutdown is more likely.

"Based on current market trends and the timing of expected orders, Boeing anticipates completing C-17 production in mid-2015, an adjustment of approximately three months from an initial estimate of late 2015," the company said in a statement. 

RELATED: Boeing's 777X in California: Is Long Beach a long shot?

“This was disappointing news for more than 2,000 employees in California, who have built the C-17, the worlds premier air-lifter, for more than two decades,"  Boeing  spokeswoman Cindy Anderson told KPCC.   

Boeing had planned to deliver ten C-17s this year and another ten next year before ending production.  It had already slowed its production pace down from 15 of the jets per year in order to keep the production line running for longer.  Now, Anderson said, Boeing will only build seven of the jets next year. 

"It takes a long time to build a C-17," Anderson said. " The contractual cycle and the build cycle are long and so the decisions had to be made now."

Boeing has built 262 C-17s to date, including 223 for the U.S. Air Force.  This year, it has already delivered one jet to Kuwait, and plans to produce five more to complete an order from India.   The rest of this year's planes and those on tap for next year are for customers Anderson couldn't name because its discussions with those countries are confidential.

Anderson said the layoff process in anticipation of the end of production started early this year, but because some workers have retired and others are transferring to other jobs within Boeing, the the impact has been minimal so far.

Last year, as Boeing was struggling to reach a new contract agreement with union workers in Washington State, Long Beach leaders and Boeing workers in the area  tried to persuade the company to move its 777X commercial jet production to Long Beach.   But in early January, the Washington state workers approved a new labor contract with Boeing by a slim majority.