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Shutdown set for Boeing Renton facility

Decision made to clear backlog of 737 MAX jets

The Boeing 737 factory in Renton, Wash., is the final assembly facility for all Boeing 737s. (Seattle Times/TNS)
The Boeing 737 factory in Renton, Wash., is the final assembly facility for all Boeing 737s. (Seattle Times/TNS)

The Boeing board decided Monday to temporarily cease production of the 737 MAX in Renton, Wash., in January, MarketWatch reported Monday, citing a person familiar with discussions.

Decision-makers were meeting Sunday and Monday in Chicago.

It’s likely Boeing will keep 737 MAX assembly lines closed until the Federal Aviation Administration clears the jet to return to commercial service, according to another person close to the board. That decision currently is expected around mid-February or early March, the person said.

“It depends on the return to service. How long is that going to take? Is it 60 days? Probably,” the person said. “You can only build them for so long without delivering.”

Boeing has continued to assemble 40 737 MAX jets at the facility since March, following a second fatal crash of the aircraft in five months, MarketWatch said.

Ahead of the Christmas break, the imminent shutdown is tough news for Boeing’s Renton workforce, though not unexpected nine months into the grounding of the MAX and shortly after government officials telegraphed that it’s likely to extend to almost a year.

The person close to the discussions said the company will transfer some of the roughly 12,000 people who work in Renton to other production facilities in the region, including the Auburn parts plant and the Everett widebody jet plant.

However, the other facilities don’t have the capacity to absorb all the Renton workers, and a substantial number of furloughs are likely, though perhaps beginning only after the normal holiday break for Christmas and New Year’s.

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Last week, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson pushed out approval for the MAX to fly passengers again into next year, and then told Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg in a meeting in Washington, D.C., to dial down public statements suggesting a return to service was imminent.

Officials privately identified mid-February as the new target for FAA clearance.

Seattle Times contributed to this report.

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