Floating the C-17

On its own dime, Boeing is paying for long-lead items on 30 C-17s, expecting the Air Force to buy them, company VP and C-17 program manager Jean Chamberlin said Tuesday. The first 15 are pretty much a done deal; they’re in the supplemental budget and Boeing expects to be on contract by the end of October. The next 15, though—which would take the fleet up to 220 aircraft—the company is floating based on comments from Congress that the C-17s are needed and should be bought, Chamberlin said. Boeing is going out on a limb to the tune of “hundreds of millions of dollars” on the 30 airplanes, she said. If the Air Force is not directed to buy the last 15, the company could eat the loss, since the items are major forgings and other items not suitable for use as parts. However, Chamberlin said the world market for C-17-like aircraft may be as high as 15 airplanes, so the risk may not be as great as it seems.