The U.S. Air Force took delivery of its 223rd and final C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane today, as the Long Beach-based Boeing unit turns toward foreign markets to keep the line alive for another year.
"Thank-you for delivering to our nation combat airlift -- that is the definition of the C-17 -- the most versatile, most capable, most ready airlifter ever built,'' said U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva at a ceremony in Long Beach.
At that ceremony the four-engine jet roared into the sky, bound for an air base in Charleston, S.C.
The million-square-foot plant in Long Beach, which employs about 4,000 people, still has orders for a few of the giant, four-engine planes typically used to transport bulky or heavy loads, such as tanks weighing up to 60 tons, but the assembly line in Long Beach is expected to come to a halt next year.
Last year, the Air Force awarded Boeing a $500 million contract meant to help close the Long Beach plant, which was built by McDonnell Douglas Corp. and acquired by Boeing, when it bought McDonnell Douglas in 1997.
Despite being big, C-17s are powerful and nimble, allowing them to land and take off on relatively short runways.
They cost more than $200 million each. In addition to the 223 delivered to the Air Force since the initial contract was let in 1981, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, India and Qatar and United Arab Emirates operate 34 C-17s.
Three of the 10 crafts ordered by India have been delivered -- seven are in various stages of completion -- the last of which are scheduled to be finished in 2014.