Wichita's aviation jobs dependent on jet sales to China

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The head of Boeing's Commercial Airplanes says 150,000 American jobs are supported by Boeing's sale of jetliners to China -- and that many of those jobs are in Wichita. 

Ray Conner made the remarks Thursday at a National Committee on U.S. China Relations event in New York.

Conner said China is expected to take delivery of 30 percent of the 737 jetliners Boeing builds and 25 percent of all Boeing's plane models.

The feeling is Conner was directing his comments towards President-elect Donald Trump.  Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese imports -- and some fear he could start a trade war.  

China could switch Boeing airplane orders to European based Airbus orders or to Canadian based Bombardier.

"There's a lot of fear because you had Trump threaten the prospect of a 45-percent tariff on Chinese imports," said Richard Aboulafia, Aviation Analyst with the Teal Group. "That's basically a giant red flag. Our biggest single export to China is jetliners. And it does support a lot of jobs." 

Spirit AeroSystems single largest program is the 737. Spirit manufactures large portions of all Boeing's commercial jetliners.

Spirit AeroSystems gave the following statement to KAKE News:

"Spirit AeroSystems operates in a global industry, and our products are in record demand from customers around the world. Spirit's long-term success depends on our customers' ability to sell aircraft in a highly competitive global economy. We support trade policies that help achieve that goal and protect the U.S. industrial base."

It's international business that those in the local economy know holds large sway over money coming in to Wichita.

"The international side of the business in aviation is huge and it has a huge impact on our economy," said Gary Plummer, President of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce. "We need to be very careful about our relationships with other countries around the world with our trade relationships with them."  

Plummer said he's hopeful once Trump enters the White House there will be a more measured approach to his comments on such things as trade than those made on the campaign trail.

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