GEORGIA PLANTS AWAIT WORD ON FATE OF BELEAGUERED MILITARY CARGO PLANE

GEORGIA PLANTS AWAIT WORD ON FATE OF BELEAGUERED MILITARY CARGO PLANE

Workers at aircraft plants in Georgia are eagerly waiting to learn if the Pentagon wants to proceed with the troubled C-17 cargo plane, a decision Sen. Sam Nunn says should come soon.

The go-ahead would mean plants in Macon and Columbus could continue making parts for the C-17. Rejecting the McDonnell Douglas Corp. plane would give Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co. in Marietta a chance to sell the military its own cargo plane."I would ex- pect probably in the next month or so we're going to get a verdict from the Department of Defense on whether to continue to build the C- 17," Sen. Nunn, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Cobb, Ga., Chamber of Commerce Monday.

Sen. Nunn, D-Ga., predicted Congress would go along with whatever the Pentagon decides.

"There is enough support for the C-17 in Congress so that if the Pentagon gives it the green light it will survive," he said. "There is enough opposition to the C-17 in the Congress, or skepticism is a better way to term it, so that if the Pentagon turns it down I think this Congress will back that up."

The Air Force wants to buy 120 of the transport planes, but the C-17 has been plagued by $1.5 billion in cost overruns as well as mechanical problems.

"Marvelous design, poor implementation," Sen. Nunn said of the C-17.

McDonnell Douglas has a plant in Macon, employing 550 people, that makes a variety of parts for the C-17, including light fixtures and wing flaps. In Columbus, disks and compressor air coils for the C-17 are made at a Pratt & Whitney plant, though plant officials said that work is only a small part of the operations.

Marietta-based Lockheed Aeronautical, a division of Calabasas, Calif.-based Lockheed Corp., has the capacity to make the C-5, which has been out of production since the mid-1980s.