Sen. Murray says Air Force tanker decision may come Thursday

  • By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

EVERETT — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray expects the Pentagon to announce Thursday its choice between the Boeing Co. and the parent company of Airbus for the $35 billion contract to build 179 Air Force aerial refueling tanker planes.

The Air Force has scheduled a call with Murray on Thursday afternoon, after the financial markets close, said her spokesman, Matt McAlvanah.

At a visit to the Everett Vet Center on Tuesday, Murray said she is nearly sick over concern about the contract award.

“I can’t believe our country would make a decision to go with a company based in a foreign country. I won’t tolerate it,” Murray said of European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS), the Airbus parent that is offering an A330-based tanker. Boeing is offering the Air Force a tanker based on the 767 jetliner built in Everett.

“I am just hanging onto hope with every breath I take,” Murray said. “We cannot afford to lose this contract and potentially lose our aerospace knowledge and talent.”

Murray also said she is opposed to a split purchase between the two companies.

“The maintenance cost on the tankers is enormous. We can’t afford two different (systems) and need to look at the long-term consequences of a split buy. I am not ready to accept that option right now.”

Barring political interference, the Air Force has outlined a contest that weighs cost heavily. To be considered for the contract to replace Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers, the competitors first have to meet 372 requirements. If both EADS’ and Boeing’s tankers meet those requirements, then price comes into play.

To resolve the tanker contest once and for all, “a split buy is the best course, strategically, tactically and it is the only solution politically,” local aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton, with Issaquah-based Leeham Co., noted earlier this month.

Reporter Michelle Dunlop contributed to this story.

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