One day after 360 people were laid off at Spirit Aerosystems, the company hosts a large celebration. Friday morning Spirit rolled out the first piece of the KC-46A tanker.
"We know that defending freedom around the globe depends on this capability and we are committed to delivering on time with the highest quality possible," said Kris Atcheson, Director of the KC-46 Tanker Program.
Spirit unveiled the cab portion of the new tanker. It's the first of 179 that will be built here in Wichita. The KC-46A will replace about half of the KC-135 tankers stationed at 30 bases around the world, including McConnell Air Force Base.
"That craft is on average 51 years old," said Major General John Thompson, U.S. Air Force. "It's not so easy getting out of bed every morning when you're 51. Most of them were flying when President Kennedy was assassinated. All of them were flying when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon."
Major General Thompson says it's time for a new tanker and the KC-46 is just that. He hopes to see the new KC-46 at McConnell Air Force Base as soon as 2017.
"It will be a new platform with increased fueling capability and vastly increased cargo handling, passenger carrying and aero-medical evacuation capability," he said.
Major General Thompson called the KC-135 the 'Swiss army knife' of the Air Force. He says the new tanker will be even better.
Congressman Mike Pompeo says this roll out is a big deal for the community.
"We're very blessed here in Kansas we both build them and we're going to fly them out at McConnell Air Force Base. It's an incredibly important part of our national security ability. Our ability to project power all around the world. So it's a good day for Kansas and America," Congressman Pompeo said.
He says it's not just good for the U.S. military, but for the economy as well.
"It means 100s of jobs here in Kansas for a long time. It's a project that's going to go on for years and year. And it's important to Kansas economy."
While this was a celebration, Spirit's spokesman says it wasn't the best timing given the layoffs. But he says they couldn't change the date with the Major General in attendance. Spirit officials refused to speak about the layoffs on camera Friday and there was no mention during the ceremony.
Spirit unveiled the cab portion of the new tanker.