Boeing suspends production of wide-bodies

March 23, 2020, (c) Leeham News: Boeing today announced it will suspend production of its wide-bodies for 14 days, beginning Wednesday.

Production slowdown begins today.

The move is in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Boeing is the last of the Big Three aircraft manufacturers to do so. Airbus last week suspended production in France and Germany, restarting slowly today. Embraer suspended production last week.

“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 – double the company policy – which will provide coverage for the 14 calendar day suspension period,” Boeing said in a statement. “

Boeing is working to minimize this suspension’s impact on the company’s ability to deliver and support its defense and space programs, and ensure the readiness of our defense customers to perform their vital missions. Boeing will work closely with those customers in the coming days to develop plans that ensure customers are supported throughout this period. Critical distribution operations in support of airline, government, and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) customers will continue.”

About a dozen employees at the wide-body final assembly lines were diagnosed with coronavirus. One died yesterday.

28 Comments on “Boeing suspends production of wide-bodies

  1. The geographic distribution of production as embodied by the Charleston site is largely (in hindsight) justified by the current panic/spread in the Pacific Northwest.

    However, it’s not there yet as clearly the 787’s in Charleston require wings/other parts from the PAC NW.

    Sad to hear of the death. If I’m not mistaken I think the shut down of wide body production means no new commercial aircraft are getting built by Boeing as of today. It’s really a continuation of the unprecedented shock this has provided. Nikki Haley resigning rather than voting in favor/against a bailout request is another one.

    Boeing now faces a complete existential crisis, and it’s up a bit over $50 Billion market cap as of today, likely on the assumption/speculation federal funds will be flowing to it shortly.

    • I don’t see Charleston as a minus or plus factor one way or the other.

      All those major parts come from all over the world and a great deal if personal movement to ensure the system is working.

      Wings are acualy made in Japan. Other parts (rear) from Italy.

      Nose is from Kansas. And each locale has the sub parts fed into it form all over the world.

      • The biggest risk of the concentration of manufacturing and other assets in the PNW is the great earthquake which will occur there sooner or later.

        • A big Boeing supplier is Japan, which has even higher earthquake risk. The answer is to build resilience into the buildings that build critical parts. The workers their travel and utility supply are the choke points

          • Quite some time ago (mid 90ties?) the more or less sole manufacturer of epoxy resin compounds for encapsulating integrated circuits in Japan stopped production. ( earthquake, fire, can’t remember )
            This put worldwide purchase for semiconductors on allocation for a year!

          • Duke:

            The reality is a quake is going to hit the PNW hard, not what the answer is because the answer is 100 years off.

            PNW has been LAX (yes twisting of letters intended) .

            And while Japan did amazingly, they failed amazingly as well. Fukushima where they put the Generators and electrical distribution in the basement to flood (that is stupid no matter where)

            So you could not even bring in off site Generators and plug in as all your plug in and distribution was under water with your Generators.

            And we can mention the Tsunami that they had records of occurring and ignored and built towns right in the path of (except one town that had markers for just that reason). Killed 15,000 -20,000 people I believe.

            And the PNW has an advantage there though luck of geography , no major cities directly on the coast though the small towns will be severely impacted (no records and only recently have they realized what they have off the coast)

            So is a lot more complex and what they should do vs what they have is the relevancy. Helps if you live where those mega thrust take place.

            Well you can add in the occasionally intra slab that there is no physical record of and no recorded history of.

            Interesting rub that a high magnitude quake in a mega thrust zone has no Tsunami associated with it. So yes you can have false alarms.

  2. A tough call but I agree that Airbus and Embraer did it right.

    Better to stop, get in professionals, do the training on process and procedure, clearly it did not work the way Boeing did it in Washington, have to see about Charleston.

    Each part build locale is going to have to go through this and disruptions from time to time.

    Airbus may shutdown wide body build.

    Due to lack of funds and world shutdown airlines my defer all narrow body as well.

    Parking big chunks of or all your fleet you don’t need any new birds right now.

  3. Boeing stock is up about 10% today. Guess “The Street” likes it.

    That being said, I still don’t see this as a “buying point” for the stock (nor Airbus stock either). Of course, that’s my opinion only.

  4. A tough call but the only thing to do. Thinking about it, on the plus side, BA aren’t building aircraft which might not have a home to go to.

    • The last time I looked there were a startling number of A350s undelivered for all manner of reasons. Seems a bit odd for what is slated as a more popular product

  5. Off topic, what’s happened to Uresh Sheth and his 787 news page?

    • @Steve: Maybe his new job precludes his doing that. Or maybe Boeing shut him down. He is on LinkedIn.

      • If he has been shut down : Quite a bit of stamina shown.
        Active ~2004 onwards?

  6. Hi Scot.

    Thanks for all the aviation updates over the past few days.

    I’d just like to know your thoughts on what impact all of this will have on the WTO cases. Clearly Boeing can’t now say they didn’t get any government funding.

  7. In Germany Airbus can legally go to a 4 even 3 day work week, with cooperation of the union and government regulators, rather than lay people off completely. I don’t know about France or Mobil Alabama.

    • in local newspapers (western France) :
      Nantes and Saint Nazaire AIRBUS plants were stopped last Week
      This Week, they are ramping up as fast as possible, but with maximum care:
      volontary workers only, 6 hours production 1 hour cleaning
      and safety distance between workers…

      • Thanks, my company has retarded management. We don’t have our servers files accessible of site despite the low value of the info etc. Our policies now preclude meetings and we must wear masks when we leave our offices. No extra cleaning as per airbus, I cringe when I need to got to the bathroom. Those masks do very little. It’s touch that will infect you. Cleaning is the primary way to keep the workplace safe. The virus easily survives 12 hours on metal surfaces and 6 on clothes but we are now hearing of it surviving a week and for 4 days in contact lenses. It’s not just a bad influenza. Fatality rate is 2.3% over 25 times the flu.

        • I had an occurrence at a facility that is still open with a very very bad practice.

          Got in touch with mgt, they agreed how it was handled was an issue.

          In this case worker tried to modify the old system when mgt had told them differently. Hopefully no harm and they are learning.

          Mgt had seen another aspect of non compliance with intent and took it the way it was intended, make it work to be as safe as possible.

          Its the lip service types like the Airports that had no spacing that are dangerous to all.

        • William: Alabama is hostile union, that is why the industry is down in South Carolina and Alabama etc.

          But Airbus can do it any way they want, in their case they got subsidy from Alabama to locate there.

          They did better than Wisconsin did with the LED screen plant!

    • In France, part time work can also be set up at company level, which means that some of the employees will work full time, some part time while the rest not at all (I am in the last case). Government announced that minimum 84% of normal revenue will be ensured in the frame of coronavirus.
      In addition, most French air and space companies belong to metallurgical convention which, in case of part time due to unpredictable events such as Cov-19, ensures 100% revenue to all part time workers, whatever the work rate, for up to 6 months (paid by the companies)

  8. From local newspaper (la dépêche ):
    TOULOUSE plant is being restarted in a very similar way as NANTES and SAINT NAZAIRE

  9. Here in the UK we’ve just been ordered to stay at home except for essential work. I can’t see how airliner building is included.
    Please post lots of interesting stuff Scott and Bjorn. Good luck everyone.

  10. I’ve heard that the corporate aircraft segment is quite busy in the air. If this virus lasts a year or more, will folks that have to travel seek out smaller aircraft (30 seat aircraft) vs wide bodies if they have the choice? A boost for the smaller feeder airlines?

    • Makes no difference as commercial planes go through airport terminals and 30 passengers are still close together in a smaller fuselage
      Private jets have maybe less than 6 passengers, who know each other and use private terminals

      • I suspect protocols can be implemented that will allow safe travel:
        1 Disinfection of aircraft before each flight. The virus survives for days and is transmitted by contact.
        2 No passengers with fever, cough or running nose will be allowed.
        3 Passengers will be issued and must wear a mask except when going through ID.
        4 Passengers issued with at least 5 antiseptic wipes.
        5 Meal Service restricted to hermetically sealed portions or eliminated entirely. No ‘purchase in flight’, too much handling.
        6 Hygiene safety drill added to the life jacket drill.
        7 Crew will need to wear gloves and N95 respirators.
        8 Arriving passengers will need to self isolate until tested.

        9 Drive through testing can be performed 1-2 days before departure to get the ‘all clear’ and perhaps again at arrival. That on its own might be enough without 1-8 above.

        It will take the glamour out but at least eliminate the transmission on the aircraft.

        • N-95 mask does not work to avoid it. It may stop the 6 ft spray is all.

          And the way you get it (mostly) is from people you know. Ask Mrs. Truedoue pr Pricne Charles!

          Test is probably the best method, but you can be negative one day and its still building.

  11. Transworld:

    Error alert

    The problem with backup electrical supply for radioactive fuel rod coolant pumps at the Fukushima reactor was fuel tanks that weren’t high enough to avoid the tidal wave (they were located high to avoid tidal waves, but in the event the wave was higher than the predicted maximum).

    OTOH there was a hospital in NYC that added backup generators on a higher floor but did not isolate electrical controls which were flooded by Superstorm Sandy.
    Two quite different cases.
    Fukushima highlights the question of how far to go in design, the lesson is that if the result will be catastrophic go high. The airliner manufacturing industry is doing that, such as by wide separation of redundant controls and wiring cables.
    The NYC hospital case highlights the need to think things through fully, I call that ‘integration’, some use ‘Systems Engineering’ as a description of the process, safety analyses

    (It would be interesting to read if the NuReg safety analysis process was used for the reactor installation at Fukoshima, it was designed over half a century ago, I should dig out my copy of the process booklet to see when it was published, though designers were doing good things earlier, the process definition just formalizes with a goal of ensuring thorough analysis.)
    Of course people have to believe the safety analysis – NASA lost sight of it for the Challenger space shuttle whose FMEA clearly states the consequences, then supplier Morton-Thiokol evaded it. (Management didn’t listen to concerned engineers, and made a collectivist decision – took a vote among people of who only one had technical ability.))

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