This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
Boeing plans to suspend production at its Puget Sound-area facilities amid a declared state of emergency in Washington state and what the company calls its continuous assessment of the accelerating spread of the coronavirus in the region, the airframer announced Monday. The suspension includes the company’s narrowbody plant in Renton, its widebody facilities in Everett, and its Auburn and Frederickson fabrication plants. Boeing stock briefly stopped trading on the New York Stock exchange early Monday afternoon, just before it released the news.
Boeing expects to begin reducing production on Monday and completely cease the activities on Wednesday, March 25. Plans call for the suspension to last 14 days, during which time the company said in a statement it would continue to monitor government guidance and conduct more “deep cleaning” while establishing “rigorous criteria for returning to work.”
The move comes after several Boeing line employees contracted the Covid-19 virus. One Everett-based employee has died from the illness, according to the Seattle Times.
"This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live," said Boeing president and CEO Dave Calhoun. "We continue to work closely with public health officials, and we're in contact with our customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders who are affected by this temporary suspension. We regret the difficulty this will cause them, as well as our employees, but it's vital to maintain health and safety for all those who support our products and services, and to assist in the national effort to combat the spread of Covid-19.”
The company directed production employees to continue to report for their assigned shifts on Monday, at which time, it added, they will receive guidance on their role in the suspension shutdown process. While Boeing said Puget Sound area-based employees who can work from home will continue to do so, those who cannot work remotely will receive paid leave for the initial 10 working days of the suspension, or 14 calendar days—double the company policy.
Boeing said it will take an orderly approach to restarting production “with a focus on safety, quality, and meeting customer commitments.”
"We will keep our employees, customers, and supply chain top of mind as we continue to assess the evolving situation," said Calhoun. “This is an unprecedented time for organizations and communities across the globe.”
The company added that it is working to minimize this suspension's effect on the company's ability to support its defense and space programs and that “critical” distribution operations in support of airline, government, and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) customers will continue.