COVID-19 forces two-week closure of Boeing’s Philadelphia helicopter factory

At close of business on Friday, April 3, the factory will temporarily suspend production “in light of the company’s continuous assessment of the spread of COVID-19 in the region,” Boeing said in a statement April 2.

“Suspending operations at our vital military rotorcraft facilities is a serious step, but a necessary one for the health and safety of our employees and their communities,” said Steve Parker, Boeing’s vertical lift vice president and general manager and Philadelphia site senior executive. “We’re working closely with government and public health officials in the tri-state region. We’re also in contact with our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders affected by this temporary suspension as we assist in the national effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

The factory is a major hub of military rotorcraft manufacturing where all or part of the H-47 Chinook for the U.S. Army and international customers, portions of the V-22 Osprey and the new MH-139 Grey Wolf for the Air Force are built.

Boeing is the first major U.S. Army helicopter manufacturer to shutter a production line because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Army aviation leaders recently told reporters that prime contractors showed no signs of disruption and that the economic viability of sub-tier suppliers was the real worry.

As a holder of major U.S. government weapon contracts, Boeing is considered a critical infrastructure business by the Defense and Homeland Security departments and therefore expected to remain open.

Boeing promised “an orderly shutdown consistent with requirements of U.S. and global defense customers. . . . “We are working to minimize the suspension’s impact on the company’s ability to deliver and support critical defense programs.”

Boeing plans to have the facility back up and running by April 20. During the suspension, Boeing will continue to monitor government guidance and actions on COVID-19 and associated impacts on company operations. The company will conduct additional deep cleaning activities at buildings across the site and establish rigorous criteria for return to work.