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Helicopter OEMs are implementing drastic measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with European-based Airbus and Leonardo temporarily suspending some operations.
Leonardo, headquartered near Milan in Northern Italy in one the most affected regions of the outbreak, suspended activity at its offices on March 16 and 17 to start an “extraordinary cleaning and sanitation of company premises.”
According to a translated statement posted on the company’s website, Leonardo said it continued “essential activities” during the closure, including activities related to the public utility, security, emergency medical services, and armed forces sectors.
From March 18 to 25, the company said it would begin a progressive partial reactivation of operating activities, based on balancing the need to ensure the continuation of business while ensuring it was complying the safety measures required by the government in respect to COVID-19.
Workers at its facilities are maintaining a distance of at least one meter between each other.
Elsewhere in Europe, Airbus Helicopters has suspended production and assembly work at its facilities in France and Spain.
The move, implemented on March 17, is to last four days, and will be in place across the parent group’s facilities in those two countries.
“This will allow sufficient time to implement stringent health and safety conditions in terms of hygiene, cleaning and self-distancing, while improving the efficiency of operations under the new working conditions,” the company said in a press release announcing the decision. “In those countries [France and Spain], the company will also continue to maximize homeworking wherever possible.”
Airbus Helicopters’ headquarters in Marignane, France, is the major rotary-wing site affected by the move, but the manufacturer also has facilities in Dugny, near Paris (which focuses on rotor blade design, production and customer services), and Albacete in Spain. The latter is a center of excellence for the production and integration of rear fuselages for all Airbus types.
Airbus added that it is “working together with its customers and suppliers to minimize the impact of this decision on their operations.”
While the COVID-19 virus is also changing life and working practices in North America, the continent appears to be a few weeks behind Europe in terms of the severity of the outbreak.
A spokesperson for Bell, based in Fort Worth, Texas, said the company is continuing to operate its facilities on their regular schedules, while “staying vigilant and closely monitoring the situation and its impact worldwide.” Currently, Bell has avoided any disruption to its manufacturing and operations.
“The health and safety of our employees is of utmost priority to our company,” the spokesperson added. “Bell has established preventive measures in accordance with CDC and WHO guidelines for employers and continues to provide all the necessary information to our workforce and customers.”