Boeing Announces Phased-In Return To Commercial Production

Boeing Puget
Credit: Boeing

Boeing plans to resume production of its widebody commercial aircraft in the Puget Sound area factories starting as early as April 20 following almost a month-long shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning with the late shift next Monday April 20, the company will also bring back Renton employees to start preparations for the re-start of 737 MAX production. 

Boeing initially suspended aircraft manufacture for 14 days beginning on March 25 but was forced to keep the closure going as actions continued to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Washington State. However, the company, which conducted deep cleaning operations at its facilities during the hiatus, says the return to production will begin with a phased approach starting as early as the third shift next Monday.

Around 27,000 people in the Puget Sound area will return to production of the 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs. Boeing adds that preparations to restart the 737 production line, suspended since January, will also get underway when employees return to work on the Renton site late on April 20 with the bulk following on the 21st. The 747, 767 and 777 lines will be staffed up by April 21, while the 787 line will begin re-opening on April 23. The remaining 787 line employees are set to return over the following shifts on April 24.

Boeing says the South Carolina 787 facility “remains in a suspension of operations at this time.” Meanwhile, earlier this week Boeing restarted defense production operations in the Puget region with approximately 2,500 employees returning to work.

The aircraft manufacturer says precautions to maintain the health and physical distancing of the employees will be taken in accordance with federal and state guidelines. Measures include the use of staggered shift start times to reduce the concentration of staff arriving and leaving from work; more visual signs and marking to help maintain separation; face coverings will be required; use of personal protective equipment for employees working in areas of close contact with others; employee self-checks and wellness checks at the start of every shift; hand washing stations in high-traffic areas and continued use of virtual meetings where possible.

News of the planned return to work comes the day after Boeing posted statistics indicating that just 50 aircraft of all models have been delivered through March 31. The numbers represent the lowest quarterly deliveries since the end of 2008 and compare with 149 aircraft delivered over the same period in 2019.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.