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Decision marks end of era in S. California

The 717, which seats 100, is Boeing's smallest passenger plane. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The announcement Friday that Boeing Co. will stop producing its 100-seat 717 plane means the end of passenger plane production in Southern California, a region with a rich aviation history.

Faced with a shrinking market for its small passenger plane, Boeing said the last 717 will leave the assembly line at its Long Beach plant in May 2006 — unless the aerospace giant can secure a few more orders, which would extend production several months.

Either way there will be layoffs, thought it’s too early to know how many, the company said. Regardless, Boeing will remain a major employer in Southern California.

Boeing remains the area’s largest private employer, with about 35,000 workers in Southern California alone. About 2,500 workers are in its commercial aviation divisions, which include the 717 program and a division that maintains and refurbishes the planes. The company also builds the C-17 cargo plane at a separate facility in Long Beach.

If no further 717s are ordered, layoffs would begin in 2006, McKenna said. Many of the union employees have enough seniority to move over to the C-17 program, he said, and Boeing hopes to place salaried workers in other divisions or out of state.

Boeing’s massive Long Beach factory was built in 1940 by Douglas Aircraft to build warplanes. After Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas, the company phased out production of the MD11, MD80 and MD90.

Today, most of the complex is shuttered, except for those buildings used for final assembly of the 717. The company said Friday it had not decided what to do with the facility once it closes.