Textron Aviation in Wichita says it is furloughing “most" of its U.S.-based staff for four weeks beginning Monday.
In a statement, CEO and president Ron Draper says the move is as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This decision will allow us to do our part in mitigating and containing the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing, while continuing to support our customers,” he wrote.
The unpaid furloughs will take place between March 23 and May 29.
Textron, which makes Cessna, Beechcraft and Hawker aircraft, says it will also adjust production to “align with anticipated market production.” Demand for aircraft is down as travel is restricted across the globe during the coronavirus outbreak.
Textron might be one of the first aerospace companies to adjust during the current coronavirus outbreak, but Wichita State University economist Jeremy Hill says it won’t be the only one.
“Aerospace has that vulnerability right now because it’s a mostly luxury good, or a good we’re not going to use because of commercial aerospace," he says. "They’re in two segments that because of our social distancing are not going to really have a high demand today.”
He says depending on how long the pandemic — and the uncertainty surrounding it — last, layoffs could be in the future "for lots of companies." "If we get contorl of the coronavirus and there's a clear understanding of the end of it, those layoffs can be mitigated" through actions like furloughs, Hill says. "If we go another week with so much uncertainty, then I think you're going to see mounting layoffs through all kinds of companies." Textron Aviation employs almost 10,000 people in the Wichita area. It laid off an undisclosed number of salaried employees in December.
Another major Wichita aviation company, Spirit AeroSystems, is also adjusting its workforce during the outbreak. In an email to staff, the company says employees who are not required to be on site and who have approval from their managers should start telecommuting “until further notice.”