This month's completion of the merger between Boeing Co. and McDonnell-Douglas Corp. has answered few questions about the fate of the Douglas Aircraft factory in Long Beach, although city officials and aerospace analysts say they do not expect any immediate layoffs.
The Douglas factory, which Boeing now calls the Douglas Products Division, has about 10,000 employees in Long Beach while its neighboring Transport Aircraft division has about 8,500 workers.
In 1990, McDonnell-Douglas employment in Long Beach where the two divisions were then combined was at its peak of about 45,000 employees.
Since the merger was announced earlier this year, there has been uncertainty over whether the new owner would scale back, ramp up or close down the plant.
Boeing spokesman Don Hanson said firm decisions about what the facility will and won't produce can be expected some time in November, giving time for Boeing officials to fully review Douglas files and facilities.
Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill, however, said she is not worried.
"We have had nothing but positive indications from Boeing about maintaining and possibly enhancing the workforce," said O'Neill.
Even so, O'Neill said she has not had any formal talks with Boeing officials about the fate of the plan. She did say she was aware that engineers from the facility were recently sent to Boeing's headquarters in Seattle to help the company brass assess what to do with the facility and its products.
"With the orders for planes that Boeing has, and with the work continuing on McDonnell Douglas planes, I believe employment will stay at its current level or increase," the mayor said.
On Aug. 7, Boeing chairman and chief executive Phil Condit took a tour of the facility and told employees they should be confident about their jobs. At the same time, he said that the future of two Douglas planes for which Boeing has counterparts the MD-11, MD-80 and MD-90 will depend on their sales, and that Boeing will insist on profits.
This contradicted reports from the Paris Air Show in June, when Boeing Capital Airgroup President Ron Woodard was quoted as saying that Boeing plans to discontinue Douglas planes, including its flagship MD-11 freight carrier.
However, Boeing spokesman Hanson said last week that those quotes were a product of faulty reporting.
So far, there is only one area where Condit and industry analysts converge in predicting the plant's future. This has to do with the MD-95, a newly designed mid-range, 100-seater now beginning production beginning production in Long Beach. Condit said the MD-95 either in its current form or a modified version has strong potential to be kept in production long-term, as it fills a gap in Boeing's line of planes.
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