Boeing's iconic Globemaster says goodbye

The company is winding down production of its massive military cargo plane, further reducing aerospace jobs in Southern California.

By Bruce Kennedy Sep 12, 2013 1:19PM

A U.S. Air Force Globemaster3 C-17A in England, on July 7, 2012 (© Luke MacGregor/Reuters)Thursday is a day of closure for Boeing (BA) and the city of Long Beach, Calif., as the company delivers its 223rd and final C-17 to the U.S. Air Force there.

Boeing is winding down its program for the massive cargo jet, which is expected to shut down completely by late next year. That ending also calls into question the fate of the 1.1 million-square-foot Boeing plant in Long Beach -- one of the last remaining aircraft factories in Southern California -- and the estimated 4,000 workers employed there.

Plans for the C-17 cargo jet, known as both the Globemaster and the T-1, began during the Cold War. Design of the massive plane (pictured), which can carry tanks, heavy machinery, tons of equipment, scores of troops or even be converted into a mobile hospital, began in the 1980s with McDonnell Douglas. Boeing inherited the program when it merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997.

Since then, the C-17 -- with its relatively short takeoff and landing requirements -- has become a workhorse for both the U.S. Air Force and its allies, while reportedly generating more than 30,000 jobs in 44 states with an estimated total economic impact of $5.8 billion.

After the C-17's final domestic delivery to the Air Force's 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Boeing will concentrate on the remaining overseas orders for the plane. A current order from India for 10 C-17s, according to The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, will keep the Long Beach plant busy until the third quarter of next year.

The Los Angeles Times says Boeing, which has already cut jobs and slowed down production rates in Long Beach, has been trying to buy time for the plant with the international sales.

"We've known this was coming for a while," Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster told the newspaper. "I'd love for the Air Force to buy more C-17s, but they have made their decision. The future is going to be in foreign sales."

The Tribune, meanwhile, reports aerospace jobs in Los Angeles County, once an economic engine for the U.S. aviation industry, have dropped from more than 130,000 in 1990 to about 38,000 last year.

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Sep 12, 2013 8:14PM
I was born in southern CA in 1938, as was my dad in 1911.  Right after WWII my dad and grandfather owned extensive citrus groves in eastern LA County, and you could drive from Kellogg Hill in West Covina all the way to San Bernardino through nothing but orange and lemon groves... ditto in Orange County.  Then the greedy (and corrupt) Los Angeles County Commission started raising taxes on agricultural land until all the growers were forced to sell out to big developers, who raped the land.  Most of this was driven by the aircraft and aerospace industry, hiring thousands of immigrants from midwesters states.  Sorry, but my family was forced to sell their citrus groves for pennies on the dollar, and if LA County is now feeling the pain of aerospace firms moving to greener pastures.... that´s fine with me.  What goes around comes around.
Sep 12, 2013 2:32PM
Why would a company try to keep jobs in California with the high cost of doing business there?
Sep 12, 2013 6:37PM
Used to work at the Long Beach c-17 building 52 plant. Fact is California's regulatory agencies have made it hard for businesses to succeed there. So most companies don't set up shop in California. They go to AZ, TX, or WA, etc where the legislators are business friendly.
The more jobs that leave So Cal the more the tax burden increases on the average citizen.
California needs to reign in the out of control Cal OSHA and other regulatory agencies before they completely ruin California.

Sep 12, 2013 6:16PM
With the Anti-Business environment in California, one thing is for certain - Boeing won't look to establish another manufacturing operation in that facility, nor will any other airplane manufacturer.
Sep 12, 2013 2:45PM

For a career aerospace engineer, reading that aerospace jobs in Southern California have dwindled from more than 130,000 in 1990 to about 38,000 in 2012 is heartbreaking.  The rest of the U.S. does not appear to be picking up more than a small fraction of the slack.


Employers expect newly hired older workers to be able to step in and produce immediately.  If your line of work changes, this is not possible.  Engineers are still considered over-qualified for low paying jobs.  Thus, it is not easy for a career aerospace engineer to make a living today if you are not one of the 38,000 survivors.

Sep 12, 2013 3:28PM
How sad.  My husband and I help build the first C-17 and witnessed the
first flight in 1990, a proud day at McDonnell Douglas.  May I say that is
McDonnell Douglas who should be proud of that plane.  It was a great
feat and so was the building built to manufacture it.  
Sep 12, 2013 2:26PM
It is a sad day my Great Uncle will be sad he helped build and maitain those buildings in Long Beach before he retired from McDonnell Douglas.
Sep 12, 2013 1:47PM
Another chapter of the McDonnell Douglas legacy near closing. =/
Sep 13, 2013 1:17PM
Any machinery built for our troops should be built on American soil.  Not in some foreign land.
Sep 12, 2013 4:02PM
As on of my bosses told me back my engineering days building not using defense products was a great benefit to the US. It motivated people to get trained and educated so they could work at decent paying jobs and then spend their money on houses, cars etc. As far as the C-17 goes has any one making these comments ever observed the number of these airframes that we see in the news every  time there is an earthquake/storm in some other country. They truly have projected American aid many times and in many places
Sep 12, 2013 5:23PM

Nobody mentions that C-5 is bigger and has been modernized to be used through 2040.      Why waste tax payer money on this when the C-5 is the work horse of the air force at caring 50 more take off tons than these mini C-17s.       


C-5s are getting upgrade engines making them even more efficient and agile for take off distances vs. take of weight.


Obama and friends just don't want to lose the union votes.

Sep 12, 2013 2:21PM
Can't they re-tool the plant to produce other aircraft? Seems like Boeing usually has more orders then capacity to produce them.
Sep 12, 2013 7:39PM
You'd have to experience one of those mammouth beasts flying at low altitute over you before you can EVEN understand how big they are! Some are stationed at Tacoma, WA and they fly over I-5 to their runway, what an experience! They look like they are going 60mph because of their massive size.
Sep 12, 2013 6:48PM
kind of sad that the armed forces of the united states will be going to foreign sales for our planes would you not think that we would want americans to have the jobs and not some other country? why is it our own government is so worried about other countries having jobs for their people and not about jobs for americans. it is not the job or America to make jobs for forging workers but from the president all the way down they worry about foreigners and illegals having jobs and education and give it all to them paid for by americans. enough is enough now time for the American government to work for americans now  
Sep 12, 2013 11:49PM
Every job "created" through government spending just means that government has confiscated money from the private sector/individuals.  That is true whether it is spending tax dollars to buy a C-17 from a private company or hiring another IRS employee or another Obama Czar.  These jobs are "tax-dollar users".  This reduces the size of the private sector economy and therefore the tax base.

On the other hand, if the money is left in the hands that earned it, that entity will invest it so that it will earn a return on their investment and thereby create more companies and more jobs.  These jobs are "tax-dollar payers".  Why is it so hard for some people to understand this?

More "government sector jobs" or more "government spending" will KILL the U.S. economy.

Sep 12, 2013 4:14PM

Not to worry. When planes are needed in the future they will be outsourced to the lowest bidder in some far away land. Sure the product might be substandard but it's all about the bottom line isn't it?

It is in the same vein as the military letting their trained career personnel go to bring in new less expensive recruits. They use to give re-enlistment bonuses to keep the experienced people but that ended a few years ago. In a navy with more admirals than ships, is it surprising the other services would rather get rid of Indians in favor of the chiefs who decide the cuts?

Sep 12, 2013 10:47PM
And what is going to take it's place, I just don't see something showing up with Made In China stuck on its a**. The way we are running around the world putting out muslim fires, we'll need more, not less.
Sep 12, 2013 2:58PM

It's the old saw of beating our swords into plowshares. The only problem is; if the terrorists or warmongers come knocking, the US military won't have anything to defend the Country with except plowshares.


And what about the unemployed aircraft plant workers? More welfare? It's happened before, and it will happen again, because people who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

Sep 12, 2013 3:27PM
They'll continue production in China.
Sep 13, 2013 6:13PM
   It's about time they close this pork barrel project.  The Airforce only wanted originally 180.  That was when are military was far greater in size with regards to troops and equipment.  Barbra Boxer wanted more C-17s during her last run for the Senate so she could buy votes.  The previous comments are quite correct.  The C-5 can carry far more cargo than the C-17.  Plus if the military needs extra lift, (which they don't need). They will just use the airlines to move troops just like in Vietnam and the first and second Gulf War.  The only reason other countries have a few C-17s is because the US gives those countries the money to buy it.  This crap that India was going to buy 10 is ridicules.  Why would India need a plane that could move troops all over the Globe.  And if India were to acquire it, it will only be because the US would buy it for them.  The C-17 is not commercially viable like the Boeing 747, remember the 747 was originally built for the Airforce.  Then UPS and FedEx would buy it.  They don't want to touch it.  Why, because it is crap for the price it would cost to fly cargo.
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