WASHINGTON — Boeing is shuttering its Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, production facility for two weeks due to the spread of the new coronavirus in the region, according to an April 2 statement released late in the evening.
The temporary closure means Boeing will halt its production lines to include the H-47 Chinook cargo helicopter and the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft as well as the MH-139A Grey Wolf helo. The Grey Wolf is the U.S. Air Force’s new Huey replacement, which began flight tests in February.
“This action is intended to ensure the well-being of employees, their families and local communities, and will include an orderly shutdown consistent with requirements of U.S. and global defense customers,” Boeing said in the statement.
“We have had positive test results for Boeing Philadelphia employees, but we are not commenting further on any affected employees to ensure privacy,” Andrew Africk, a Boeing spokesman, told Defense News in an April 3 email.
The company will stop work April 3 at the end of the day. Employees will return to work on April 20. Boeing said it will continue to monitor government guidance and how that might affect company operations.
Boeing is working “closely” with area government and public health officials, and “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,” Steve Parker, Boeing’s vertical lift vice president and general manager, said in the statement.
During the closure, deep cleaning will take place across the site and the company will establish new “rigorous criteria” when employees return to work, according to the statement.
“We are working to minimize this suspension’s impact on the company’s ability to deliver and support critical defense programs,” Africk said.
For instance, he said, the company is still able to deliver the first CH-47 with an upgraded cockpit to the Royal Netherlands Air Force on time this week. The service is buying 20 of the helicopters, with deliveries continuing into 2021.
Some Philadelphia employees who can work from home will do so, the statement noted, and those that can’t will receive paid leave.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.