Could Charleston help Boeing's tanker bid for the Northwest?

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on October 30, 2009 at 4:43 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 30 at 5:57 PM

SEATTLE – With the Puget Sound's loss of the second 787 assembly line to South Carolina, the focus is now on the Boeing's battle to win the Air Force tanker contract. If Boeing wins, it's potentially a 179 plane deal, with the planes built in Everett.

Ironically, Charleston could help Boeing win.

The new pitch from Boeing to the military would not only include the 767, but the 777 which is already flying as a tanker in service for the Japanese.

It was about 18 months ago when the Air Force chose a partnership of American defense contractor Northrop-Grumman and the parent company of Europe's Airbus instead of Boeing to build the tankers. Boeing protested the decision and won, causing the Air Force to re-open the bidding.

The players are the same, including the competition, which plans to build their airplane in Alabama. But now that Boeing will be building Dreamliners in South Carolina, that may divide southern loyalties among that region's congressional delegation.

"That might actually help them a bit, gaining favor among the Republican delegation on the hill," said Michel Merluzeau, an aerospace and defense analyst with G2 Solutions.

Washington state's largely Democratic congressional delegation is considered more of a benefit now, with a Democratic controlled Congress and a Democrat in the White House, than it was last year with a Republican in the White House.

But the Air Force will be under a microscope to make sure, this time, the process is fairer. That still does not preclude the next tanker battle from becoming another marketing and political fight.

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