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No. 2

Boeing Buys McDonnell-Douglas

Numerous uncertainties emerged after Boeing Co. announced plans to acquire McDonnell-Douglas Corp. among them the future of the thousands of workers at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach.

But for the moment, the $14 billion deal, which was completed in August, makes Boeing the largest private-sector employer in Los Angeles County, with about 30,000 employees.

The companies successfully completed the deal, which was announced in December 1996, after overcoming European Union concerns about the merged company posing unfair competition to the European consortium Airbus Industrie.

Orders for certain Douglas planes, including many made in Long Beach, have slowed to a trickle in recent years. That slowdown, coupled with a rash of orders for Boeing jets over the past two years, fueled speculation that some of the 10,500 Long Beach workers might be transferred to Seattle, where Boeing is based, or that the Long Beach facility might be retooled to make Boeing jets.

A few answers came in November, when Boeing officials announced that production of the MD-80 and MD-90 lines would end in mid-1999, when the last planes under existing orders are delivered. About 30 percent to 40 percent of Boeing’s Long Beach workers are dedicated to making those lines.

Boeing said news would come early in 1998 regarding the future of the MD-95, a 100-seat jet expected to be added to the Boeing family of jets. Boeing had been considering adding a 70- to 100-seat passenger plane to its lineup.

In addition, Boeing officials have projected that 300 MD-11s (used primarily as cargo planes) will be sold over the next 20 years.

Such projections have offered hope to Long Beach workers, as has Boeing’s need to dramatically ramp up production to meet delivery deadlines.

By April 1998, Boeing plans to have its output at twice the level it was at as of late 1996. An announcement about what role, if any, the Long Beach facility will play in making Boeing planes is expected early in 1998.

Wade Daniels

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