Thursday, January 20, 2011

The End is Near for Southern California's Conventional Aircraft Manufacturing

At LAT, "Boeing cutting 900 Jobs at Long Beach C-17 Plant":
Time is running out at Southern California's last major conventional aircraft factory.

Citing declining orders for its C-17 cargo planes, Boeing Co. said it was cutting 900 of the 3,700 jobs at its sprawling Long Beach plant. Barring congressional intervention or a spate of foreign orders — which analysts say is unlikely — the factory is expected to shut down completely by the end of next year.

"There's just not that much of a market for this aircraft," said Scott Hamilton, an aviation industry consultant in Issaquah, Wash.

The layoffs, which the company announced late Wednesday, continue the decline in local aerospace jobs. The industry, which employed more than 160,000 people in Southern California in 1990, had an estimated workforce of about 47,650 last year.

The C-17 Globemaster III, a massive, four-engine jet that hauls 60-ton tanks, troops and medical gear across continents and yet lands on short runways, has been in production since the early 1990s. The plant, next to Long Beach Airport, is a symbol of a bygone era in Southern California when factories ran around the clock building colossal aircraft.

"Our rich history of aerospace manufacturing makes this an emotional day for Long Beach, as the C-17 plant is the last of what was previously a robust aerospace manufacturing industry in California," Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said.

Boeing once built the 717 jetliner in Long Beach. It was also where McDonnell Douglas manufactured the MD-80 commercial jet. Farther north, Lockheed Corp. produced the Constellation and Electra in Burbank. Now, those facilities have been shuttered.

In recent years, the industry has transformed from blue-collar manufacturing work to more white-collar engineering, concentrating on high-tech systems such as spy satellites, precision missiles and robotic planes. But this work doesn't need nearly as many people.

Newly laid-off workers will also face a tough hiring environment. Unemployment in California stands at 12.4%. In Los Angeles County, it is 12.9%. Workers were told about the layoffs Wednesday, and termination notices will begin to be issued Friday, the company said.

"There are a lot of people upset about it," said Ray Luciani, 60, a maintenance mechanic at the plant. "I'm just hoping to last three more years to get my pension."
My college is right next to the old 717 plant. It's a ghost town around the facility, and it's weird.

More on this later.


lady di said...

Manufacturing also disappearing here on the east coast. We make nothing in the states, can't afford to. Weird and also sad because these laid off workers have no where to go but the unemployment office.