updated 1/25/2004 4:51:23 PM ET 2004-01-25T21:51:23

The Boeing Co. is considering selling its 75-year-old manufacturing plant in Wichita, Kan., as part of a long-term shift to building aircraft but not all of their components, according to a published report.

Citing an internal strategic-planning document obtained from a company insider, The Seattle Times reported in Sunday editions that the timing of any sale was unclear and that no prospective buyers were named.

The Wichita plant, which employs about 12,400 people, houses the largest remaining segment of aircraft-component manufacturing within Boeing. Selling the facility would be the most dramatic move yet in the company's stated quest to reduce its airplane part manufacturing business.

Boeing Wichita's vice president and general manager, Jeff Turner, declined to comment to The Times. "I can neither confirm nor deny. I don't comment on mergers and acquisitions or divestitures."

Reached Sunday in Wichita, company spokesman Dick Ziegler, told The Associated Press, "In keeping with company policy, we absolutely don't comment on those types of stories."

Boeing executives have long weighed shifting the company's business model to focus more on creating the initial overall design of jets and handling only quick final assembly, rather than building the bulk of an airplane from start to finish.

The internal document indicates that Boeing's pieces of the aircraft-manufacturing process _ the beginning and the end _ are expected to be centered in Everett, Wash., where final assembly of the 7E7 Dreamliner is planned.

The document also confirms that Boeing one day anticipates closing its Renton, Wash., plant, although the timing is not stated. Alan Mulally, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, has said that plant will continue producing airplanes until the 737 program ends, probably in 15 or 20 years.

The Wichita facility is central to Boeing's commercial-jet manufacturing. The company makes fuselages for Boeing's 737 and 757 jets there, as well as engine casings for the 747, 757, 767 and 777, and the nose-and-cockpit section of every Boeing jet, except the 717.

In 2002, Boeing's Wichita payroll was about $1 billion, and the company did $193 million in business with local suppliers.

Last year, Wichita won a huge piece of future work on Boeing's proposed 7E7 jet, to supply an elongated nose-and-cockpit section for the 7E7.

Over the past two months, Boeing management has directed an extensive environmental survey of the Wichita site and a detailed valuation of its assets, The Times reported, citing unnamed company sources.

Turner insisted such surveys are common, but an employee who requested anonymity and who worked on the valuation analysis, said his manager told him that work was to prepare the site for sale.

"It's the buzz throughout the factory," Hoyt Hillman, a safety-and-environmental-health scientist who worked on the environmental survey, told the newspaper.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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