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Boeing shuts down KC-46, P-8 plants for two weeks because of COVID-19

March 23 (UPI) — Boeing announced a two-week shutdown of its Seattle-area plants on Monday, stopping production of KC-46 refueling and P-8 surveillance military planes.

The manufacturing suspension will last until March 25, the company said in a statement.

The shutdown comes as Washington state is under a state of emergency because of the spread of COVID-19, and several Boeing employees have tested positive for the virus.

KC-46s are made for U.S. Air Force at Boeing’s Everett, Wash., plant, and P-8s are made for the U.S. Navy at Boeing’s Renton, Wash., facility. The two planes, each delivered at a rate of about one or two per month, are derived from civilian models and are built on the same assembly lines as commercial aircraft. Any delay in commercial production could harm the company in delivering aircraft to the military.

Boeing said it will work closely with defense and space customers to “develop plans to ensure customers are supported throughout this period.” While some employees can work from home, it acknowledged that telecommuting could compromise some elements of classified projects.

The aviation industry has been particularly hard-hit by the response to the spread of the virus, as air travel has declined and aircraft manufacturers have seen a decline in orders. Boeing also saw its entire production of 737 Max aircraft grounded earlier this year until software problems are corrected.

“These actions are being taken to ensure the well-being of employees, their families and the local community, and will include an orderly shutdown consistent with the requirements of its customers,” the Boeing statement said.

The company also announced on Monday that CEO Dave Calhoun and Board Chairman Larry Kellner will forgo pay raises in 2020, that its dividend to stockholders will be suspended and that it will extend the interruption in its stock repurchasing program.

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