Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Boeing’s defense sector will close its sprawling facilities in Wichita, Kan., and shift work elsewhere as part of a broad cost-cutting move, announced the company Wednesday. The company will implement the departure by the end of 2013, and end 80-plus years of Boeing’s association with Wichita. The action will result in the loss of some 2,150 jobs at the plant, and send elsewhere some 7,500 jobs that were promised to the area if Boeing were to win the KC-46A tanker contract. It won the work, but decided at the end of December that “the cost of labor” in the Wichita area—it’s a union plant—as well as the overhead at a facility where other programs are rapidly winding down would unacceptably raise KC-46 costs, said Mark Bass, general manager of Boeing Defense, Space, and Security’s maintenance, modifications, and upgrades division. In a press conference, Bass said the KC-46 work that was coming to Wichita was in “finishing and delivery,” and will now be done in the Puget Sound, Wash., area, near the factory where Boeing will build the 767 airframes that will be the basis of the tankers.