Boeing Downshifts in Long Beach

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US engineers walk past a C-130 Hercules at Aero India 2007 in Bangalore. The C-17, built to replace the C-130, is a remarkably versatile plane, but the US military requires only so many. The C-17's future depends on international sales from countries like India. (Credit: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Boeing has announced it's laying off 1,100 workers who build its giant C-17 cargo plane. Nine hundred of them work at the company's sprawling plant in Long Beach.Under Boeing's current layoff plan, the Long Beach plant will trim 400 jobs this year and 500 jobs in 2012.

KPCC's Brian Watt spoke to Boeing spokesman Jerry Drelling, who said a drop in orders has forced the company to cut its production rate.

"When you're delivering fewer C-17s, a corresponding reduction of the workforce also has to take place."

As Watt has reported for us, that order book used to be full with demand from the U.S. Air Force. Of the 226 C-17s that Boeing has delivered in the last 18 years, the Air Force has taken 206. But the Department of Defense ordered just 10 C-17s in its 2010 fiscal year budget, none in its FY11 budget, and its 2012 budget is still up in the air.

The Boeing C-17 cargo plane carries tanks, soldiers or disaster relief supplies to just about any place in the world, no matter the state or length of the runway.

India is in talks with the U.S. government to purchase 10 C-17s. Kuwait could acquire at least one.

"The India order," Drelling says, "once it's finalized, would take us through 2013."

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About Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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