Rumors were flying through the nation’s defense and aerospace communities Thursday morning as an announcement neared on a new production plant at an airport in southern Illinois. It was no secret that it would be a Boeing plant, but beyond that little was known.
Some speculated that the plant would be used to overhaul retired 747s that the airlines were buying from desert graveyards, where they’d sat for years. Others thought it would be used to convert secondhand 767s into Air Force refueling tankers. There was even speculation that the plant would make parts for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner.
When the announcement finally came, Boeing had nothing to say about what would be manufactured at the plant at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill.
Given its proximity to Boeing’s production facilities in the St. Louis area – and the fact that the head of Boeing’s defense, space and security division was at the news conference – there seemed little question that it would be defense-related.
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Boeing also has bid on a $35 billion contract to build a new generation of aerial tankers for the Air Force. The Boeing plane would be based on a 767 airframe built at the company’s plant in Everett and converted for tanker use at its Wichita, Kan., facility. The contract eventually could be worth $100 billion.