The Boeing Co. has a rich history in Kansas, lasting almost a century. Having lived in Wichita and worked here for years running a small business supplying aircraft parts, including to Boeing, I understand fully the aircraft-manufacturing industry and how deep the roots are that Boeing has put down here. In fact, my mother’s first real job was working at Boeing Wichita as a purchasing clerk. Boeing’s global success is due in large part to Kansas’ aviation workers — engineers and machinists, welders and designers — who are the finest in the world.
Now Boeing has publicly announced it is conducting a study to determine the future of the Boeing Wichita facility. Privately, Boeing has made it clear to me that it does not intend to finish the KC-46A tanker in Wichita. Instead, the work will be done in Washington state. This decision violates the unequivocal commitment Boeing made to all Kansans that our state would be home to the KC-46A tanker finishing center.
Boeing made this promise to me personally, in writing, as recently as this past May. Boeing also made this promise to all of our other political leaders and to the U.S. Air Force. The promise was simply this: You provide the brains and hard work to help Boeing win the tanker competition, and Boeing will create 7,500 aviation jobs in Kansas if its bid prevails.
Boeing fought a long and fierce battle to build the KC-46A tanker and secured the largest defense contract in the history of the world. Kansas aviation workers were at the very core of Boeing’s effort that entire time.
For years, Kansas workers, Kansas suppliers and Kansas political leaders worked diligently and committed significant time and resources to persuade the Air Force to select Boeing over its competitor, Airbus. During that competition, Boeing stressed — both publicly and in the formal, final bid proposal it submitted to the Air Force — that its Wichita facility would be critical to building the next generation tanker. To remove Kansas from the tanker project now not only violates a public trust, but it creates risk to taxpayers and to our fighting forces.
We now know that Boeing intends to walk away from its promise. Moreover, Boeing has told me directly that it also intends to move work repairing and overhauling Air Force One out of Kansas. Not only will new job opportunities be lost, but the betrayal simultaneously jeopardizes the future of the more than 2,000 aviation jobs currently held by Boeing employees in Kansas. This would be a devastating loss — not only for those employees and their families but for our entire community. Boeing officials’ refusal to “dance with the girl who brung them” on the tanker contract is incomprehensible, and I urge them to reconsider this decision.
Boeing is an integral part of our community fabric. Indeed, Kansas and Boeing are family. To possibly leave our state now, under a cloud of broken promises, is beneath the dignity of this proud company.
I respect Boeing’s right to run its business as it sees fit, but that freedom does not extend to violating long-standing promises and obligations that arise from its commitments. Nor does the broad latitude to address real business needs permit companies to knowingly make false statements to the U.S. government or to federal officials during a bidding process.
I urge the company’s leaders to do all that they can to honor the Boeing name and to take all steps available to do right by the hardworking, talented people who build the world’s greatest airplanes here in Kansas.