Monday, January 30, 2006

Straws in the Wind II: Say It Ain't So, Mr. Baseler.

There's an interesting article by Stephen Trimble in Flight International today about the C17 Globemaster III. It reports that the procurement process for long lead items will be shut down within the next sixty days if no new orders are received. What's Boeing's solution to the impending demise of all heavy aircraft manufacturing south of the Columbia River?

Boeing is proposing that the existing delivery schedule for the C17 be stretched out until everyone figures out whether the C5 RERP, about which more below, will be a success or not.

Maybe I'm just an ignorant hillbilly from Iowa but what in the hell kind of proposal is that? The effort to find something to do with the C17 beyond the initial order book should have started nearly fifteen years ago.

Yet, as we have seen, Boeing acquired the McDonnell Douglas facility in Long Beach, only to let the MD11 ( a viable freight hauler) expire on the operating table and let the MD80/90 line bleed to death. It now seems that the C17 is headed for the last roundup. This tends to support those who think that acquisition of the Long Beach facility could well have been intended, not to produce airplanes or to acquire the knowledge and resources of the Long Beach plant and the people who worked there, but to make damned sure that nobody else would ever build heavy jets anywhere in the US but in Washington state.

Oh, of course there was some discussion ten years ago of maybe setting up another B737 production line in Long Beach but that went nowhere in a big hurry. My guess? That idea was as dead on arrival as last week's Pacific salmon.

Think I'm misguided? If you want to get into any business where the cost of getting yourself established is high, it's far better to purchase a going operation and reconfigure it than to buy everything new from the ground up and try and assemble a pool of trained workers and a knowledge base. We see that here in the center of the country when large meat packers buy up productive capacity and idle it so as to keep local interests from getting too big for their britches. In fact, this is a tactic one of my clients used in his business to take productive capacity and put it beyond the reach of potential competitors.

I've suggested before that the C17 plant and everything inside it is owned by the taxpayers. Boeing, not being interested in the workers or in the region never had a real investment to protect by marketing the finest airlifter-hell, the ONLY airlifter-in its class. The decision has been taken, the patient will breathe for a while longer, but its expiry is as certain as God made little red apples in the Yakima valley.

Now. One thing about blogdom is we's all equal. At least that's the theory.
Here's another fellow's blog that seems to have a following.

So Randy, say it ain't so.

Here's the RERP information.

The airlift fleet will consist of 180 C17s, yet another C5 upgrade for 112 frames, and 550 C130 Herks. The C5 program will consist of glass cockpits and new engines, so it seems that Lockheed Martin has succeeded in extending the life of the venerable C5.


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