The ungrounding of the Boeing 737 Max is expected to have a positive impact on the aerospace industry in the region, including for some Skagit County companies that supply parts to Boeing and service airplanes.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the Max for flight Wednesday after it was grounded in March 2019 following two deadly crashes that killed 346. The Max is allowed to resume flights after a 20-month “comprehensive and methodical” review process, the Associated Press reported.
“The FAA’s decision to unground the 737 MAX is good news for us in the Pacific Northwest,” U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said in a news release last week. “The decision provides some certainty to the aerospace jobs in Northwest Washington, despite the downturn in aviation travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
John Sternlicht, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County, said Boeing contracts with Skagit County companies to refurbish, service and build airplanes.
“There were a number of companies here that were really hurt as a result of Boeing hurting,” he said.
One is Chinook Enterprises, a Mount Vernon social enterprise that supports those with disabilities in the community.
To support its mission, the nonprofit manufactures aircraft components, and lost work when the 737 Max was grounded, said Chinook Enterprises interim CEO Tom Doughty.
“We are optimistic we will feel an impact (of the 737 Max ungrounding) sometime in 2021 in a positive way,” he said.
Doughty said even though losing the Boeing work hurt, Chinook was able to continue its mission. It serves 100 clients in Skagit County.
The grounding of the 737 Max also negatively impacted Hexcel Corporation, located at the Port of Skagit west of Burlington. The company supplies carbon fiber and composite materials for aircraft.
The company cited the Max grounding and the COVID-19 pandemic as factors in a layoff of 130 at the Burlington plant in April.
A Hexcel spokesperson said last week the company had no comment on the Max being cleared to resume flights.
“Hexcel is a proud and long-term supplier to Boeing, and we look forward to our continued partnership with them,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Steven Lynn, director of marketing for Janicki Industries, said the Max’s return is not likely to have a large impact on the company specifically but it is good economic news for the region.