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Boeing 737 aircraft fuselage shipment on BNSF train.

Boeing Negotiating to Buy Spirit AeroSystems

March 4, 2024
Both businesses are operating with FAA oversight since a 737 MAX incident in January, but combining them may be a way to resolve longstanding supply issues.

The Boeing Co. is negotiating to acquire its supplier Spirit AeroSystems, according to multiple published reports, a deal that would reunite Boeing with the Wichita-based manufacturer of airframes that was its own operating unit until a spin-off in 2005. No details on the timing or cost of the purchase have been announced.

One report indicates that Spirit Aero is simultaneously negotiating to sell an Irish operation to Airbus SA, to which it also supplies airframes. In addition to its primary operations in the U.S., Spirit has units acquired from Bombardier and BAE Systems that supply the Airbus A220 program and other aircraft builders.

Spirit AeroSystems manufactures fuselage assemblies for the Boeing 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner programs. It has been the object of much scrutiny over recent years owing to a series of structural and maintenance issues on those aircraft, which are Boeing’s most profitable series. Last fall Boeing invested $100 million in Spirit AeroSystems in a move meant to stabilize the business, and a former Boeing executive Patrick M. Shanahan was installed as the new CEO of Spirit.

The inconsistency of the supplier relationship has been a dilemma for Boeing over the past several quarters as it struggled to raise the production rate for the 737 MAX, its most profitable platform. The problems have been catalyzed since the January 5 Alaska Airlines incident, in which a door plug in a 737 MAX blew open in midflight.

The door plug is installed by Spirt AeroSystems in the 737 MAX fuselages it delivers to Boeing, then removed and reinstalled during the final assembly process at Renton, Wash.

Since that time, both Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems have had Federal Aviation Administration inspectors on location overseeing their production processes.

FAA has put a hold on Boeing’s plans to increase the 737 MAX production rate, though the OEM has indicated it expects to increase the rate from 38 to 47 jets per month in January 2025, and then to 52 jets/month in June 2025. By February 2026, Boeing aims to achieve 57 jets/month.