About a dozen partially completed 737 MAX airplanes currently inside Boeing’s Renton plant will be finished before production comes to a complete stop in mid-January, the company told employees in an internal email message Monday.
Meanwhile, some Boeing workers will be deployed either locally or as far as Victorville, Calif., to maintain the hundreds of MAX jets idled by the grounding, or to do other work.
Beginning this week, approximately 3,000 workers — those directly involved in manufacturing, engineering and parts fabrication — will be temporarily reassigned, the message states. Most of those affected are at the Renton site, where a total of some 12,000 people are based. Some workers at Boeing fabrication plants in Auburn and also in South Carolina will also be reassigned.
The first wave of reassignment notices went out to employees Monday, informing some workers on the 737 jet program in the Puget Sound region that they will be temporarily transferred to the 767 and 777 programs in Everett.
Other Renton workers will be sent to Moses Lake in Central Washington, where more than 200 completed but undelivered MAXs are currently parked for long-term storage. And some will go to Victorville, Calif., which Boeing has newly designated as another MAX storage site.
Assembly line mechanics and engineers will work at those locations on maintaining the parked aircraft. Then, as soon as regulators give clearance for the MAX to fly again, they’ll do the extensive lubrication and systems testing necessary before the jets can return to flight.
Boeing South Carolina employees who work on the 737 MAX engine nacelles will switch over to support the 787 Dreamliner program in North Charleston, Boeing said.
Once production is officially suspended, workers remaining in Renton “will use the time to focus on several quality initiatives, including improvements to standard work processes and kitting,” Boeing told employees.
Boeing has said that no workers will be laid off at this point. Yet it’s providing no timeline for restarting production, which depends upon the MAX receiving clearance to fly again from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and foreign air safety authorities.
“No decision has been made on when 737 production will restart due to the uncertainty about the timing and conditions of return to service and global training approvals,” Boeing’s message adds. “Once there is a decision, loaned employees will start returning to their regular assignments in a phased approach.”
“We are committed to making this transition as smooth as possible, and returning all of our teams to their home organizations once production starts again,” said Mark Jenks, vice president and general manager of the 737 program and Renton site.