Air Force One Staff May Snub Boeing Relocation Plan Again

Boeing Co.’s second offer to move Kansas employees who maintain Air Force One to Texas probably won’t garner any more interest than the first, which drew none, because the terms are the same, the Machinists union said.

Maintenance on the two Boeing 747 jumbo jets used by the U.S. president is being sent to Texas as a part of Boeing’s Jan. 4 plan to shutter its 83-year-old operations in Wichita as defense spending shrinks. The planemaker still might win more volunteers by sweetening its offer, said Frank Molina, president of the union’s District 70 in Wichita.

The proposal is unattractive because the San Antonio workforce isn’t unionized and the Wichita workers don’t want to uproot their families, Molina said in a telephone interview. Texas law forbids requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

“The employees were very disappointed with the offer,” Molina said. “If the company really wanted them, they would have made a better offer.”

Keeping the Air Force One maintenance staff is important for Boeing because the work requires employees to have five years of experience on that jet or comparable special-mission planes as well as security clearances that can take as long as two years to obtain, Molina said. The planemaker held group meetings with its Wichita workers this week.

“They do not want to lose any of these Yankee White clearance folks because of how long it takes and how expensive it is,” he said, referring to the security designation.

‘Least Successful’

The Air Force called Boeing’s attempt to build a qualified staff in San Antonio, either through new hires or personnel transfers, “one of the most important aspects of the move, yet least successful to date,” according to a July 30 letter to Boeing obtained by Bloomberg News.

A spokesman for the Chicago-based planemaker, Forrest Gossett, declined to comment on personnel relocation. He said the company is committed to meeting the requirements of the presidential jets.

The two current 747s that serve as Air Force One began flying in 1990 and have a projected service life of 30 years. The four-engine jumbo jets have been modified for midair refueling, giving them unlimited range, according to the White House.

The Air Force didn’t respond to requests for comment. Daryl Mayer, a spokesman, said in an earlier e-mail that Boeing was asked for data about its San Antonio workers’ experience, and the Air Force has “no reason to believe Boeing won’t meet all the terms and conditions of their respective contracts during this transition.”

Boeing said in January that as many as 400 jobs would be added in San Antonio, some through transfers. The cheaper, rented Texas facility opened in 1998, and employees there have worked on military planes, including the Air Force’s Kansas-built KC-135 tankers.

Relocating the Air Force One work from Wichita doesn’t make sense, Molina said.

“We already have what is necessary to run that program, and they don’t,” he said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE