SEATTLE — The U.S. Air Force on Thursday chose Boeing Co. to build its new fleet of aerial refueling tankers, news met with delight, rejoicing — and some outright astonishment — by Washington state aircraft workers and politicians.

SEATTLE — The U.S. Air Force on Thursday chose Boeing Co. to build its new fleet of aerial refueling tankers, news met with delight, rejoicing — and some outright astonishment — by Washington state aircraft workers and politicians.

The $35 billion contract is a major boost not just to the company but to the ailing economies in the Puget Sound area and in Wichita, Kan., where the planes will be built and modified.

Boeing will base the tankers on its 767 widebody jetliner, which is assembled at its massive Everett, Wash., plant. The contract initially calls for 179 of the planes, extending work for the 767 line for years.

At Everett, Boeing workers who had gathered around TVs and computer screens in the factory shook hands and high-fived when the news came across, said worker Steve Morrison. "You could hear little blocks of cheers throughout the factory."