MIAMI — A key Washington commercial aerospace manufacturing plant is to remain closed for the immediate future after a major explosion, with the impact on the fitting-out of airliners from both Airbus and Boeing unclear currently being assessed. The blast yesterday at the Zodiac Aerospace factory in Newport, northeastern Washington, injured five employees, with initial reports of a chemical explosion late Tuesday night.
Of the thirty staff inside the Zodiac Composite and Engineered Materials plant Tuesday evening, two people were critically injured and three seriously injured, according to local reports. Authorities and the company are investigating the explosion.
Explosion lifts aerospace factory off foundation http://t.co/eRsN3kMGlT
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) July 15, 2015
The impact of Zodiac to the Washington and global aerospace ecosystem can’t be overstated, with the company a major player in seating for Boeing and Airbus jets. As one of the few companies in this notably consolidated part of the aviation business, a significant delay in production could result in knock-on delays to the fit-out of new airliners and to the refurbishment of older jets. Delays in seating production — including by Zodiac — have already caused problems throughout the industry.
Zodiac is the 2nd largest aerospace employer in WA and part of a cluster of suppliers that orbits Boeing's operations http://t.co/od1kWCihg1
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) July 15, 2015
In addition to its catalog seating offerings in the economy and premium economy market, the company’s well-received Cirrus outward-facing herringbone seat is the gold standard in international fully flat business class with direct aisle access, and its other models are also widespread.
Zodiac’s seating divisions are largely based in France, Gainesville in Texas, and the United Kingdom, although the company’s website lists the Zodiac OEM (original equipment manufacturer, like Boeing and Airbus) Cabin Interiors operation as based in Newport.
Yet the company doesn’t just produce seats, with lavatories, galley kitchens, oxygen systems, overhead bins, pilot seating, lighting systems, and other can’t-fly-without-them interior components on the company’s product list.
The Newport facility is reported to be structurally compromised, with one floor having fallen on top of the floor below, and foundations having shifted.
Boeing and Airbus told the Wall Street Journal that they are assessing the impact on their own airliner manufacturing rates and completion following the explosion.
Zodiac said in a statement: “Our first thoughts go to our five colleagues who have been injured in the accident and to all the personnel and families of our employees in Newport. The local management team is in contact with the families of our injured colleagues and their families, closely monitoring their conditions. Zodiac Aerospace has set a crisis/counseling team on site, dedicated to provide support to our employees in Newport. The cause of the explosion is not not known and will be investigated both internally as well as with local and government officials. Zodiac Aerospace will fully support the inquiry.”