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Boeing 737 aircraft fuselage shipment on BNSF train from Spirit AeroSystems

Layoffs Coming at Spirit AeroSystems

May 20, 2024
The slower output of 737 MAX aircraft is affecting Boeing’s top supplier of aerostructures, which plans to reduce its workforce by about 450 workers.

Spirit AeroSystems is set to lay off up to 450 workers in Wichita, Kan., according to a staff memo issued to workers there, due to reduced delivery rates for aerostructures. The problem, like others for Spirit AeroSystems, stems from the operation’s role in the Boeing supply chain – and specifically its production of fuselage structures for the 737 MAX, which, along with similar products for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner are the plant’s primary products.

The timing and duration of the layoffs was not detailed.

“The recent slowdown in the delivery rate on commercial programs compels a reduction to our workforce in Wichita," according to a Spirit Aero spokesman. “In the coming weeks, we will inform affected employees. We are committed to implementing this transition in as compassionate a manner as possible.”

The International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union that represents workers at the plant – which as about 12,600 employees – offered concern for the affected workers.

Relatedly, Spirit Aero remains a takeover target for Boeing, as part of the latter company’s long-range plan to correct long-standing quality and performance issues for its 737 MAX and 787 programs.

Boeing’s 737 MAX program has been operating a reduced rate of production since January, following the Alaska Airlines incident in which missing bolts caused a door panel to blow open during flight. Boeing’s 737 MAX manufacturing activities have been under oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration since the January event. And the company is assembling its best-selling aircraft at a reduced rate in its effort to restore reliability to its business, though that is affecting its revenue as fewer aircraft are delivered.

The reduced output is affecting many other businesses in the Boeing supply chain, as well as airlines awaiting delivery of new 737 MAX aircraft. Several carriers have announced reduced flight schedules for the months ahead, citing the unavailability of 737 MAX jets.

As the manufacturer of the fuselage structure, Spirit Aero is also part of the FAA inquiry into the incident. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the failed door panel has not concluded whether Boeing or Spirit Aero is responsible for the missing bolts.

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