Boeing Co.'s defense business is ending production of its C-17 military transport plane about three months ahead of schedule.

The aerospace giant made the announcement Monday. It cited market trends and the timing of orders as the main reasons it expects to wrap up the program in mid-2015 instead of later that year.

As a result, the company said its first-quarter results will include a charge of about $50 million. Chicago-based Boeing releases earnings for the period on April 23.

The company assembles the Globemaster III in Long Beach, Calif., at a 1.1-million-square-foot plant it acquired through its 1997 purchase of the original C-17 designer, McDonnell Douglas.

A common sight in the Lowcountry skies for more than two decades, the big cargo plane made its first flight in 1991. It entered U.S. operational service when it touched down at Charleston Air Force Base for the first time on June 14, 1993.

Published reports indicate more than 60,000 people owe their jobs to the C-17 program domestically and beyond. About 2,200 jobs support the Long Beach plant, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Over the past 21 years, the four-engine jet has been used to airlift tanks, supplies and troops and to perform medical evacuations and other humanitarian missions. It quickly became a war and disaster workhorse, prized for its ability to take-off and land at short airstrips and cover intercontinental distances with a full load and without refueling.

The last C-17 cargo jet built for the Defense Department landed at what is now known as Joint Base Charleston in September. In all, 54 of the planes are assigned to the local installation, or about one-fourth of the Air Force's total of 223.

When orders from the Pentagon came to an end, Boeing's Defense, Space & Security business moved on to foreign customers to keep the assembly line going in Long Beach. The company first announced it was halting C-17 production about eight months ago.

Boeing hasn't announced any plans to reuse the Long Beach site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.