Wichita's aviation downturn was worse after 9-11

For Wichita and its aviation industry, the current economic downturn may feel like another Sept. 11.

But so far, employment in the aviation manufacturing industry hasn't fallen to the levels it reached following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Overall, aviation manufacturing employment is down about 20 percent since November 2008. In 2001, aviation employment dropped 35 percent over the next three years.

Whether current employment will slip that much is uncertain, mostly because the downturn is still in its early stages.

"I'll be surprised if we see that much," said Stan Longhofer, director of the Center for Real Estate at Wichita State University.

"But anything's possible."

In the days immediately after the terrorist attack, Boeing announced it was cutting 5,000 jobs in Wichita.

In that downturn, the commercial airline market felt the pain first. Eventually, the slowing economy took its toll on the city's general aviation planemakers, which followed with layoffs of their own.

In March 2001, 46,000 people were employed by aviation manufacturing; that fell to 30,000 by June 2004 – a drop of 35 percent – before employment began to turn upward.

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