The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

GE Aviation will layoff 10 percent of U.S. workforce, furlough staff in maintenance, repair and overhaul

Other divisions of the company have ramped up production of health care necessities

An employee assembles a jet engine at the General Electric Aviation plant in Lafayette, Ind., in this 2019 file photo. The unit will shed 2,600 U.S. jobs and make other cutbacks to help it weather the coronavirus outbreak. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

General Electric’s aviation wing will cut 10 percent of its domestic workforce in the coming months because of the novel conoravirus, becoming the latest in a string of companies — especially in the hard-hit aviation sector — announcing massive drawbacks in response to the economic downtown.

In a letter to employees Monday, G.E. Chairman and CEO H. Lawrence Culp Jr., announced he and David Joyce, the company’s vice chairman and head of its aviation unit, will forgo their salaries for the rest of 2020. He also said the company had instituted a hiring freeze, canceled scheduled merit raises and will furlough half of the company’s maintenance, repair and engine overhaul workers for 90 days.

Airline industry seeking more than $50 billion in government aid amid coronavirus crisis

The layoffs, which will affect 2,600 hourly and salaried workers, and other moves will save the company $500 million to $1 billion, Culp wrote.

“With regard to our financial position, our company is sound,” he wrote. “However, what we don’t know about the magnitude and duration of this pandemic still outweighs what we do know.”

GE Aviation employs around 52,000 workers worldwide, half of whom are in the United States. The company also is discussing further reductions among international employees.

Culp wrote that other divisions of the company were scaling up to manufacture more CT scanners and ultrasound devices, mobile X-ray systems, ventilators and patient monitors to meet the demand of health care workers.

Live updates: Wall Street falls despite latest Fed action to shore up economy

GE Aviation makes aircraft engines, including the machines that power Boeing’s 777s and 787 Dreamliners. The company said 33,000 of its engines are in service.

But the air travel industry has been one of the hardest hit by the social distancing many people are practicing because of the fast-spreading covid-19 virus. Airports have transformed into virtual ghost towns. Major air carriers — including United, American and Delta — announced major cuts in flight offerings. Regional airlines, which fly connecting routes on contract for mainline carriers, are in distress; Compass Airlines declared it would cease operations at the end of the month.

Even the private jet industry has asked for government assistance.

An airplane graveyard fills up. Grocery stores empty out. Scenes from Arizona during coronavirus.

The aviation industry is hoping for a rescue package worth more than $50 billion from Congress, plus another $25 billion in loans and tax relief.

Culp told employees that GE was supporting aviation industry efforts for a bailout, but “we have not sought any provisions in stimulus bills that would benefit GE exclusively.”