Production lines at the Renton factory will be halted next week for three days in order to catch up with previously delayed work. The factory is still building the 737 NG and 737 MAX planes and delivering the 737 NG, according to Boeing.
A Boeing spokesperson Friday said in a statement that the delay will help them recover from the recent winter storms and supplier delays. The buffer days were previously built into the schedule, according to the Boeing representative.
“While production lines will not pulse forward on those days, work will continue in every area inside and outside the factory,” the statement read.
The Renton Boeing factory has gathered international interest after the grounding of the 737 MAX 8 and 9 aircrafts by nations and airlines, including the FAA. The 737 MAX 8 is assembled in Renton, as well as a quarter of the world’s fleet of commercial jets.
Boeing is under increased scrutiny after a second crash within six months of its 737 MAX aircrafts, killing all on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight. Several agencies are now investigating the safety evaluations of the planes.
Production of the 737 MAX jets in Renton is currently at 52 planes a month. City of Renton works closely with Boeing to help launch the planes from the city’s municipal airport.
In the FAA emergency order, special flight permits are allowed for non-passenger carrying flights to transport the 737 MAX planes to storage, flight testing or maintenance. This means planes could still takeoff at the Renton airport, where the current halt in delivering aircrafts could lead to crowding if not transported to storage.
Manufacturing is the largest employer type in Renton, with 12,000 employees working at the Renton Boeing facility.
The FAA and Boeing both released statements in support of the decision, pending further investigation.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in the statement they plan to deploy safety enhancements and ensure this doesn’t happen again. In a later video and statement Muilenburg released March 18, he mentioned his recent visit to the Renton facility and said he saw both the pride in their work and the “pain we’re all experiencing in light of these tragedies.”
Renton residents have expressed both pride in Boeing and concern in how this could impact the local economy.
In 2011, the Renton Reporter covered Boeing’s decision to build the 737 MAX jets in Renton. The model’s production at this facility ensured a stable workforce for decades for the city. Renton has been a manufacturing site for Boeing for almost 80 years.
The FAA’s statement on the grounding said that the decision was a result of new evidence collected and analyzed at the crash site. They also said the decision was bolstered by newly refined satellite data.
The order includes the two recent crashes as the basis for the order and states that data “indicates some similarities” and “possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents needs to be better understood and addressed.”
The grounding will continue pending further investigation of flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders. Boeing also released a statement that a new software enhancement will be deployed across all 737 MAX aircrafts. That is expected in the coming weeks, according to the statement.
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