Boeing Says Kansas Plant May Be Shut on Defense Budget Pressure

Boeing Co., the world’s largest aerospace and defense company, said it may close a military-aircraft plant in Wichita, Kansas, as the U.S. Defense Department’s budget tightens.

Market studies on the factory’s future should be finished this year or early 2012, Jarrod Bartlett, a spokesman for the Chicago-based planemaker, said today in an e-mailed statement.

“The Wichita facility faces pressures because of product and services contracts that have matured and expired, and limited prospects for future work,” Bartlett said.

About 2,100 people work for Boeing in Wichita, modifying and upgrading military planes including refueling tankers and B-52 bombers. The company sold its commercial operations in the area in 2005, when Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. was formed to build fuselages for the 737 single-aisle jet.

Boeing beat European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. in February for a contract to supply the U.S. Air Force with new tankers. The company has said the planes, based on a 767, will be built at the wide-body jet factory in Everett, Washington, and flown to Wichita to be modified for military use.

“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,” Governor Sam Brownback said in a statement. “We expect the company to honor that commitment.”

KWCH-TV in Wichita reported earlier today that the plant’s future was under review.

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