85.7 F
San Fernando
Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Subcontractors Prepare For Life After C-17

Roger Pascoe would like to see the C-17 Globemaster III continue in production beyond 2009 but it’s a decision out of his hands. As general manager of HR Textron, with facilities in Santa Clarita and Pacoima, Pascoe oversees just one of hundreds of companies tied in with the production of the transport plane at Boeing’s Long Beach plant. Pascoe described the C-17 as the type of plane needed in times of global emergencies because of its ability to move military assets and relief supplies over great distances. “There’s no other airplane that can do this,” Pascoe said. Boeing notified in mid-August its suppliers for the C-17 to not manufacture parts for airplanes that have not been committed to. Currently, the production line will stay active until 2009 to make another18 planes three for the U.S. military and the remainder for foreign governments. In California, there are 345 suppliers with direct contract with Boeing. That number represents some 12,000 jobs and $3.8 billion in economic impact, the company said. Two of the top 25 suppliers in terms of dollar value are in the San Fernando Valley area: Northrop Grumman, which puts $285,000 worth of avionics in each plane; and HR Textron, which puts $225,000 worth of actuator equipment per plane. Actuators control the spoiler surfaces of the wings, allowing the aircraft to roll smoothly while in flight. Actuators are also used in the descent phase. The Boeing plane represents about 6 percent of HR Textron’s actuator sales, Pascoe said, so having the plane phase out of production will affect revenues. But on the employee side, the loss of the C-17 won’t mean layoffs. HR Textron has other projects to supply to in the coming years that will keep employee levels stable, Pascoe said. HR Textron also developed and produced a carbon composite fiber used for strengthening the aircraft and improving its payload capacity. The fiber was used in the C-17 until last year although the Boeing F-18 fighter plane incorporates the material into its frame. Diversified firms Well over 100 companies throughout the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys contribute to the C-17, in production since 1995. Those companies low on the supply chain or that have diversified to the point where they do not rely on military contracts for the bulk of their business would have minimal impacts when C-17 production ceases. That diversification is what will help suppliers weather any fallout. “They want to get a broader base of industries to supply to,” said Jack Anderson, of California Manufacturing Technology Consulting. “Many are going into the automotive and medical device fields.” At Avibank, a North Hollywood fastener manufacturer, its contracts for commercial aircraft are doing so well that it would mute any affect of not having the C-17 business, said a spokesman for its parent company, Precision Cast Parts. A representative of a Glendale company that makes interconnect components used on the transport plane said that because the firm is further down the supply chain, specific aircraft projects aren’t critical to the business. “We don’t live and die by individual programs,” the representative said. “We live and die by the general volume of business in the aerospace industry.” The C-17 was originally built by McDonnell Douglas and became a Boeing product following the 1997 merger of the two aircraft giants. Frazier Aviation Inc. in San Fernando was one of the original suppliers when Douglas built the first three C-17s but now only provides spare parts for the aircraft, said Chief Operating Officer Bob Frazier. “One thing these big companies don’t realize when they build these planes a lot of times they don’t have a spare base,” Frazier said. “That’s what we excel at.” The company made the switch to being primarily a spare parts supplier because the production of military aircraft became volatile and it was never certain which planes would be funded. Also, following the merger between Boeing and McDonnell Douglas it was his belief that Boeing wasn’t going to sustain the aircraft Douglas built and its plan was to move as much production as it could to other facilities, Frazier said. “Boeing is going to survive,” Frazier said of the C-17 decision. “It’s how many of these other small vendors are not going to survive.”

Featured Articles

Related Articles