Preserving a Boeing Tanker Option:

New commercial orders of Boeing 767 airliners have bought some time for the Air Force to organize a purchase of tanker derivatives from Boeing, should USAF choose to do so. Company officials said they had expected to start closing the 767 line last spring; that would have ended USAF’s chance to get the aircraft without an expensive line re-start. However, an unexpected upturn in the Asian airline market has extended the line’s production into next year. How long Boeing can wait on the prospect of a tanker deal is an open question. At some point, it must close the line for lack of business. Boeing can produce up to 60 767s a year at its Everett, Wash., plant. Its Wichita, Kan., facility can convert about 15 of the aircraft a year into tankers. Officials say Wichita’s operation could be expanded to do more, if needed.