Washington House and Senate negotiators reached a tentative agreement Tuesday on a $22 billion plan for the Air Force to lease 100 Boeing 767s that would be converted into midair refueling planes.
The deal calls for the planes to be leased for 10 years. Boeing then would take them back or sell them to the government, said Todd Webster, spokesman for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
There was no agreement on where modifications would be done, although one of the negotiators, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., was lobbying for Boeing's commercial plant in Wichita to get the work.
"When you have the expert knowledge, the tools and the skilled labor, it's only logical to do it in Wichita," Tiahrt said.
Rudy de Leon, senior vice president of Boeing's Washington, D.C., operations, said a decision probably would come early next year on where the work would be done and whether it would be contracted.
"This work is really in two phases, building the aircraft and adding modifications that turn the aircraft into a tanker. Wichita is very much a part of building the aircraft, and a decision on tanker modifications, where that work will be done, has not yet been made."
De Leon added: "The decision will be made by Boeing, as part of the program, and I think there are a number of negotiations with the Air Force that have to occur in terms of actually negotiating a contract. There are other companies that would like the business, but that decision has not been made."
Jen Burita, spokeswoman for Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., said Boeing could provide six tankers next year, followed by an additional 14 in 2003 and 20 more each year until the fleet reaches 100 in 2007.
"The interest we have is in Boeing workers," Burita said. And "this is a resourceful way for the Air Force to obtain an asset that they need anyway."
The aircraft would replace a fleet of 136 KC-135 refueling tankers.