Boeing is studying whether to leave Wichita after decades in the Air Capital.
The Wichita facility focuses on defense and military operations, primarily maintaining and modifying existing aircraft. It has 2,100 employees.
Boeing spun off its larger Wichita commercial aircraft operation in 2004. The division became Spirit AeroSystems the following year. Spirit is one of Boeing's largest suppliers, providing fuselages and other components for several aircraft.
A spokesman for Boeing released the following statement Monday afternoon:
“Boeing is studying the future of its Wichita, Kan., facility as part of an initiative to address the current defense budget environment,” said spokesman Jarrod Barlett. “The Wichita facility faces pressures because of product and services contracts that have matured and expired, and limited prospects for future work. We are in the process of engaging key stakeholders — including customers, government officials and union representatives — to share this information as we continue to have open and candid discussions about the challenges we face in the current budget and economic environment.
Among the options being reviewed is the potential closure of the Wichita site,” Bartlett continued. “Because of defense budget pressures, we are conducting a number of market studies to determine how to best preserve and grow our business, and continue to provide quality and cost-efficient services for our customers. We anticipate completion of the Wichita study by the end of the year or in early 2012.”
Many hoped the number of jobs at the facility would grow after Boeing won a contract worth at least $35 billion to build 179 refueling tankers. The plan is to build the planes in Washington state and then fly them to Wichita for modification work.
Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt worked at Boeing before being elected to Congress in 1994. He says while this isn’t the first time Boeing has studied the feasibility of Wichita, the current economic climate means everything is on the table. Tiahrt also says Boeing probably loses a half million dollars every day on the Wichita facility.
But the Wichita facility is facing the end of some programs, such as the international tanker program that supplied refueling tankers to other countries. Over the summer, Boeing announced it would cut 225 jobs at its Wichita defense plant through the end of this year.
Wichita City Council Member, Janet Miller, told Eyewitness News, "We would like to meet with them [Boeing] sooner, rather than later. We want the chance to talk with them before any final decisions are made."
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback along with members of the Kansas Congressional Delegation released the following statement regarding a performance study being conducted by Boeing of its Wichita facility:
“The Boeing Company has a rich history in Kansas, and the state and Congressional delegations have been strong supporters of this successful partnership throughout the last 80 years. No one fought harder for Boeing’s win of the U.S. Air Force tanker competition during the last decade than the Kansas delegation and our teamwork paid off.
Boeing has promised publicly and repeatedly in writing that the success in winning the tanker contract would mean ‘7,500 jobs’ in Kansas, including several hundred jobs at Boeing-Wichita for the Tanker Finishing Center. We expect the company to honor that commitment.
Kansans are the right team with the right tools to make Boeing’s continued operations a success for many years to come.”