Boeing [BA] has resumed limited operations at its Puget Sound-area facilities with a focus on defense programs, with new procedures in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The company announced a return to operations April 10, after the facilities were closed for over two weeks, and following an April 6 update stating the suspension would occur longer than expected.
In a Friday press statement, Boeing said it would focus on its defense programs, including the Navy’s P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft and the Air Force’s KC-46A Pegasus Tanker, as well as Moses Lake site operations in support of 737 MAX storage.
“Boeing’s work supporting the Department of Defense as a part of the defense industrial base is a matter of national security and has been deemed critical,” the company said. “The phase approach gives us the ability to ensure 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 get back to our regular business.”
About 2,500 employees are involved in the resumed operations in Washington, and will be required to wear masks or face coverings. Boeing will provide employees who do not have a face covering or mask with one.
Boeing has implemented other procedures aligned with government health guidelines, to include:
- Employee wellness checks at the beginning of every shift;
- Staggered shift start times to reduce the flow of employees arriving and departing work;
- Visual controls such as floor markings and signage to create physical distance;
- Continued virtual meetings and employees working from home if they can;
- One person per row on site shuttles and dining areas adjusted for physical distancing; and
- Hand-washing stations in high-traffic areas and additional cleaning supplies available.
Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper previously told reporters that the KC-46 program could remain on schedule through Boeing’s pause in operations as long as it didn’t extend past one month. The service has released $882 million in previously withheld KC-46 funds to the company, to ensure Boeing retains sufficient cash flow to continue defense program development throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (Defense Daily, April 2).
Meanwhile, the company’s facilities outside Philadelphia in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, remain shuttered. Boeing builds military helicopters there, including the Air Force’s MH-139A Grey Wolf, the Army’s H-47 Chinook cargo helicopter and the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft used by multiple services.