Boeing workers such as Patrick Gandall, a structural mechanic, knew this day would come. Yet, it is here and his emotions have managed to catch him off guard.
"When it comes down to the end, it's tough," said Gandall, holding back tears. "A lot of us feel it."
Feb. 10, 1986 was the day Gandall started working at Boeing.
Thursday, he and his longtime colleagues worked to put the final sections together of the last C-17 plane — #279 — at the company's C-17 Globemaster III factory in east Long Beach.
"I think a lot of us are debating what we are going to do," he said. "I'm going to do some traveling first, spread my wings a little bit, see what happens."
The factory is set to close this summer after the last C-17 is delivered. Boeing does not yet have a committed buyer for the plane. The closure marks the end of an era for the factory, which opened about 25 years ago.
"Some will retire, some will find other jobs," said another longtime employee, Tony Murray who works as a senior manager of production operations. "(There's) a lot of talent. This factory? You won't see it again."
Murray said he worked on the first C-17 in the 1990s. He's proud of the work he has done here.
The C-17s, which were designed for the U.S. Air Force, have become integral in both military transport and humanitarian missions, according to Boeing.
"This aircraft has the ability to do that and save lives," said Murray. "It's more than just a military piece of hardware, it has a greater purpose. It's a great sense of pride, being here from the beginning to now."
Added Gandall: "I'm going to go out with my head hanging high to know that we did a damn good job."
The Long Beach factory was home to about 2,200 employees when Boeing initially announced the closure in September 2013.