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Fri, Apr 21, 2006

Final 717 Leaves Boeing's Long Beach Plant

Last Commercial Plane Built In Southern California

In an emotional, informal ceremony Thursday at the Boeing -- formerly Douglas Aircraft -- Long Beach, CA plant, workers gathered before dawn to watch as the last commercial plane likely to be built at the facility was towed across Lakewood Boulevard to Long Beach Airport.

The Boeing 717 -- a 100-seat airliner that traces its roots back to the original DC-9 haulers built by Douglas in Long Beach in the 1960s and 1970s -- will soon depart for the East Coast, in the service of AirTran Airways.

Employees told Los Angeles television station KABC that the last 717 represents the end of an era at the plant, which opened in 1941 to help with the war effort. The last 717 is the last commercial aircraft that will be built in Southern California -- which, in the heyday of Douglas, was once a vibrant aerospace manufacturing center.

More than 15,000 aircraft have been produced at the plant, which Boeing took over -- along with the MD-95 program, later renamed the B717 -- when the company merged with former owner McDonnell Douglas in 1997.

The plant is now slated exclusively for military work -- specifically, for the production of the C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lifter.



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