Boeing is back in business! After suspending production last month due to health concerns around the current situation, the American aircraft manufacturer will resume making commercial airplanes via a phased approach at its Puget Sound-region facilities. It will result in some 27,000 furloughed employees heading back to work.
Stan Deal, president, and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and senior executive in the Pacific Northwest said in a statement today;
“This phased approach ensures we have a reliable supply base, our personal protective equipment is readily available, and we have all of the necessary safety measures in place to resume essential work for our customers.”
Relief for some anxious employees
Boeing’s various factories in Washington and elsewhere have been idle for over two weeks. As regular readers of Simple Flying know, the airplane builder has faced a raft of problems in recent times. What’s happened in 2020 may be beyond Boeing’s control, but it was one blow too many.
When the manufacturer began suspending specific programs and temporarily closing factories, it may have garnered a great deal of interest and attention, but it was hardly a surprise.
The past few weeks have been challenging for Boeing’s 150,000 plus employees. Many of them were furloughed. While they would be paid for a time, the employees were also encouraged to use up paid leave. For many, registering for unemployment benefits beckoned, joining the 22 million US citizens who have already done so.
Boeing’s decision to get back to business in Washington will be welcome news for these employees. Boeing says approximately 27,000 employees will be coming back to work. In addition to restarting the production of the 747, 767, 777, and 787 programs, the employees will be supporting critical global transportation infrastructure, cargo services, and national defense and security missions.
While Boeing notes that its troubled South Carolina facility will remain closed, defense production operations in the area have restarted. This alone has re-employed 2,500 workers.
Most of the Washington employees will be back to work within the week. The manufacturer says the 737 program will be restarting the production of the 737 MAX.
Testing times lie ahead
Boeing is going to some lengths to ensure the health and wellbeing of its returning employees. A number of health and social distancing protocols are being put into place. These include health checks and temperature checks at the beginning of shifts, staggered shift start times, and PPE equipment, including compulsory face coverings.
Despite this, it won’t be smooth flying for Boeing. Earlier this week, the airplane builder revealed some 150 future 737 MAX orders had been canceled in March. With just 31 new orders for aircraft in the same month, Boeing’s order book in March shrunk by 119 aircraft.
“The airline industry is confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented impacts on air travel. We are working closely with our customers, many of whom are facing significant financial pressures, to review their fleet plans and make adjustments where appropriate,” said a Boeing spokesperson.
Going forward, despite an impressive list of backorders, things may not be easy at Boeing as customers trim orders and delay new orders to account for a re-imagined, post-2020 flying environment.
But altered or not, you can expect Boeing to be a part of that future environment.
Do you think Boeing is restarting operations too soon amid the current crisis? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.