Aircraft production was officially waved into history at Boeing’s Long Beach site in Southern California on 29 November, as the company’s last ever C-17 took off, for final pre-delivery completion in Texas.
Some 74 years after Douglas established the site, workers watched the strategic transport leave, with no successor to follow it down the line. The plant’s fate had been sealed in 2013, when Boeing called time after anticipated orders from the US Air Force evaporated. A late flurry of small-unit orders from other users, such as final recipient Qatar, only kept the padlock from the gates for a few extra months.
What next for those air forces still needing to acquire an aircraft capable of transporting outsized cargo, such as helicopters and large armoured vehicles? As luck would have it, at least two European nations have found themselves with a surplus of cutting-edge tactical transports which they are unable to afford. Once combined, Germany and Spain may be looking to offload 26 yet-to-be-built A400Ms, with the agreement of their partner nations and Airbus Defence & Space.
The European developer has endured a torrid 2015, with a fatal accident and ongoing discussions to revise its seven-nation production contract. But with its larger rival no longer on the scene, there seems little danger of work running out on its Seville final assembly line for many years to come.
Source: Flight International