Boeing 717-200

Facts about the commercial aircraft that is assembled in Long Beach.

Capacity:

100 passengers; designed for shorter regional trips

Size:

Wing span of 93.3 feet and overall length of 124 feet, the 717 is similar in size and configuration to the DC-9 Series 30

Features:

Five-across seating in economy class; illuminated handrails, large overhead stowbins

Originally Launched:

October 1995

Operating Fleet:

More than 60 717s currently in regular passenger service

Boeing Co. will lay off another 300 workers at its Long Beach-based 717 commercial jet program, according to union officials, a move that some say signals the troubled program's demise.

Richard Alonzo, vice president of the United Aerospace Workers Local 148, said Boeing officials told him the new round of layoffs would be complete by March 2002, adding to the previously announced layoffs of 1,200 to take effect by the end of this year. The program at one time employed 3,500 workers.

"It upsets me," he said. "We feel the company is not even trying to market the airplane. Maybe they're trying to phase it out. It seems that way sometimes. Unless we get a big increase in orders, then it will definitely shut down."

The 90-to-110-seat 717 has been losing orders to Airbus Industrie, BAE Systems and other narrow-body jet manufacturers. What's more, the model faces internal competition from Boeing's 100-to-120-seat 737.

Company salespeople learned that first-hand when they showcased both planes in China earlier this year, only to discover that Boeing had secured $1.6 billion in orders from four different airlines all for 737s.

Boeing officials refused to comment on additional layoffs but rebuffed claims that salespeople aren't actively trying to sell the 717.

"We hear that a lot," said Boeing spokesman John Thom. "No airplane in the Boeing family has been promoted harder than the 717. It's the best airplane in the 100-seat market. We know that the current and future airplanes in the 100-seat market are not going to be able to compete with us on an operating-cost basis."

Boeing has sent the jet on three foreign sales tours and several major air shows all at significant expense, Thom said.

Boeing officials have cited outside market forecasts calling for 3,000 new 90-to-120-seat planes over the next 20 years. But those projections were made before Sept. 11.

Orders decline

Paul Nisbet, a partner in Newport, R.I.-based JSA Research Inc., concluded in a Sept. 20 forecast on the narrow-body jet industry that Boeing needs to deliver 24 717s a year to break even a figure disputed by Boeing. Nisbet's report projected that production would drop from four planes per month to one plane per month beginning next year. "There's no way it would be profitable at that rate," he said.

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