WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- An era in Kansas aviation has come to a close with the departure of the last aircraft from a Boeing Co. defense maintenance facility in Wichita, ending a 70-year relationship between the aircraft maker and the city.
The Wichita Eagle reports (http://bit.ly/1kckkJq ) that an EB-4 took off Thursday from Wichita, headed south, then banked back north for a final pass before continuing on to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Future work on the planes will be performed at a Boeing facility in San Antonio, Texas.
Current and former Boeing employees watched from the Kansas Aviation Museum adjacent to the runway with sadness as the last jet left.
Chuck Younts Sr. worked for Boeing for 50 years, earning 95 cents an hour when he started at age 18. He retired from Boeing's plant in Everett, Washington, in December 2001.
"The work that has been accomplished here has been outstanding," Younts said. "I hate to see the work go out of state when it should stay in Wichita. To be here to see it today is tremendous."
Boeing had been in Wichita since 1927, employing as many as 40,000 workers. Boeing sold its commercial business in 2004 to Onex Corp., which formed Spirit AeroSystems. Boeing announced in 2012 that it would end defense work in Wichita.
In closing the defense facility, Boeing also shifted work to Oklahoma City and Washington's Puget Sound area. The Wichita facilities have been put up for sale.
Frank Molina, president and directing business representative of the Machinists Union District 70, said about 50 hourly workers currently remain at the Boeing plant, down from 2,160 when the closure was announced.
"It's the end of an era. It's really sad to see what started up Wichita, Kansas, is finally coming to a close," Molina said. "But behind them, we have a lot of great aircraft companies and manufacturers that are world class, and they are now setting the stage for aviation."
Zane Boatright, deputy chief, VIP/SAM & Special Duty Division for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, issued a statement noting the Air Force's history with Wichita and its workers.