Boeing Co has resumed production of the 737 MAX at a “low” rate, the company said on Wednesday, following two deadly crashes that led to the aircraft’s global grounding by regulators.
The jet has not flown commercially since March last year and is still a number of key steps away from being cleared for service by the US Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators.
Boeing said that work on the 737 MAX had resumed at the company’s factory in Renton, Washington, as it implements initiatives to enhance workplace safety and product quality.
“We’ve been on a continuous journey to evolve our production system and make it even stronger,” said Walt Odisho, Boeing vice president and general manager of the 737 program.
The aerospace giant in January shut down production amid uncertainty over when regulators would clear the jet to fly again.
Even before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MAX crisis had cost Boeing billions of US dollars in compensation for airlines and production expenses, including the cost to store more than 400 airplanes that could not be delivered to customers.
Since then Boeing’s troubles have deepened, as its airline customers have been thrust into a fight for survival due to plunging travel demand from coronavirus shutdowns.
Earlier on Wednesday, Boeing released details of a downsizing plan to cut total head count by 10 percent, or about 16,000 employees.
The company said that it approved the voluntary layoffs of 5,520 employees in the US and was notifying another 6,770 staff that they would be involuntarily let go.
“The COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the airline industry means a deep cut in the number of commercial jets and services our customers will need over the next few years, which in turn means fewer jobs on our lines and in our offices,” Boeing CEO David Calhoun said on Wednesday in a memo to employees.
The company faces the challenges of keeping employees safe, and working with suppliers and airlines “to assure the traveling public that it can fly safe from infection,” he said.
Boeing would have to adjust its business plans constantly, because the pandemic makes it hard to predict the effects on the company’s business, he added.
Additional reporting by AP
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