Boeing shuts 787 plant in South Carolina as hurricane approaches

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co suspended operations on Tuesday at the South Carolina plant where it assembles 787 widebody jetliners following evacuation orders for coastal areas threatened by powerful Hurricane Florence, a company spokeswoman said.

In advance of workers evacuating the facility, Boeing flew several 787 Dreamliners from the South Carolina factory across the country to an airport near Boeing’s widebody plant in Everett, Washington, north of Seattle, Boeing spokeswoman Libba Holland said.

Hurricane Florence grew on Tuesday and was expected to bring days of rain, deadly flooding and power outages lasting weeks after it slams into the U.S. Southeast coast this week.

Winds of up to 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour) and massive waves will pound coastal North and South Carolina when Florence makes landfall on Friday, and its rains will take a heavy toll for miles inland, the National Hurricane Center said.

Holland did not have an estimate for when operations would resume. The hurricane-related closure comes as Boeing grapples with production logjams due to shortages of parts from suppliers that have rippled across the aerospace industry.

“Boeing has suspended operations at Boeing South Carolina so our teammates can properly evacuate,” Holland said. “We will resume operations once it is safe to do so.”

Flight tracking website said eight 787s made the cross-country exodus to the Pacific Northwest. One of the planes, according to the website, was a 787-10 for United Continental Holdings Co, the first North American customer for Boeing’s largest 787 model, which sells for around $326 million at list prices.

The 787-10 is built exclusively at the North Charleston plant due to its large size, which prevents the transfer of sections to Boeing’s Everett factory for final assembly.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by James Dalgleish