Boeing: No tanker price change expected due to move 'at the moment'

Boeing announced Wednesday that it will close its Wichita, Kan., facility, shifting work on the Air Force tankers to Washington state.

The Wichita facility’s core functions are aircraft maintenance and modification work, company officials said Wednesday. Those markets are flat or declining, Mark Bass, vice president and general manager for Boeing's maintenance, modifications and upgrades division, told reporters.

The Air Force tanker would have been a production effort. Keeping the aerial tanker work there would not have been enough to justify keeping the plant open, Bass said.

But during the nearly decade-long Air Force competition, the firm had said it would erect the flying gas stations at the Kansas facility, work that would have delivered around 7,500 new jobs to the area.

A company study changed that, finding the Wichita plant lacks “enough sustainable business on the horizon” to keep it open, Boeing said in a statement Wednesday. The facility will close by the end of 2013.

Bass and other company officials vowed Wednesday that they had no idea they would close the Kansas facility, which was a focal point of the tanker bid, when the Air Force awarded that $35 billion tender.

Holmes said he is not aware of any new construction work at its Washington state facility — or infrastructure upgrades beyond what would have been needed in Wichita — to accommodate the tanker production work.