General Dynamics Corp. announced Friday that its Convair Division will stop making commercial jetliner fuselages by the end of 1995, eliminating 1,900 jobs and marking the end of the company’s long history in San Diego.
General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas mutually agreed to terminate Convair’s contract to provide fuselages for the 300-seat MD-11 airliner. Manufacturing responsibility will be transferred to McDonnell Douglas, which has said it will not preserve the operation in San Diego. General Dynamics had tried for two years to sell the Convair unit, but the effort ultimately failed.
The termination of the contract will mean the end of the Convair Division and of General Dynamics’ presence in San Diego, as well as the city’s long aircraft-building tradition. The defense contractor once employed 18,000 people here but sold its missiles division to Hughes Aircraft in 1991 and its Atlas rocket operation to Martin Marietta earlier this year. Both moved the units elsewhere.
Ending the contract enables McDonnell Douglas to take over the business without assuming responsibility for Convair employees and facilities.
General Dynamics has been reducing its operations in San Diego since it announced in 1989 that it would abandon all defense markets it did not dominate. The company began making aircraft here in 1935 with amphibious airplanes and continued with B-24 bombers during World War II.
Up to now, the massive MD-11 fuselages have been made at the Convair plant near Lindbergh Field and then shipped by barge up the coast for final assembly at Douglas Aircraft’s Long Beach facility. The announcement ends two years of limbo for the Convair employees, who knew the parent company was trying to unload the operation.
Officials at the International Assn. of Machinists union local representing Convair workers were not available for comment late Friday. McDonnell Douglas said it has made no decision on where the fuselages will be made once it takes over production.
“We’re looking at any and all cities,” a spokesman said. “The only thing we can say is it won’t be in San Diego.”
General Dynamics has delivered about 120 of the 200 fuselages called for in its contract and will ramp up production to deliver most if not all of the 80 remaining in its contract over the next 18 months.