Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems is laying off 450 after production of troubled 737s slows

May 17, 2024, 6:15 AM | Updated: May 18, 2024, 9:56 am

Image: The Spirit AeroSystems sign is seen, July 25, 2013, in Wichita, Kansas....

The Spirit AeroSystems sign is seen, July 25, 2013, in Wichita, Kansas. (File photo: Mike Hutmacher, The Wichita Eagle via AP)

(File photo: Mike Hutmacher, The Wichita Eagle via AP)

Spirit AeroSystems, a key Boeing supplier that makes the fuselages for its popular 737 Max airplanes is laying off about 450 workers because production has slowed down ever since a panel flew off one of those airplanes operated by Alaska Airlines in midair in January.

A spokesman for Spirit AeroSystems confirmed the layoffs at its Wichita, Kansas, plant on Thursday that would trim its workforce of just over 13,000 people. Spirit is Boeing’s most important supplier on the 737s because it makes fuselages and installs door plugs like the one that flew off the plane. But it’s not clear whether Spirit or Boeing employees were the last ones to touch that panel.

“The recent slowdown in the delivery rate on commercial programs compels a reduction to our workforce in Wichita,” Spirit spokesman Joe Buccino said to The Associated Press (AP).

Spirit also released a short statement on its website that can be linked to from its homepage. It began the same way as Buccino’s statement to the AP did by noting the delivery rate slowdown. It added that it plans to inform workers that will be affected soon.

“In the coming weeks, we will inform affected employees,” the statement reads. “We are committed to implementing this transition in as compassionate a manner as possible.”

Boeing confirmed this spring that it is in talks to buy Spirit, which was once a part of the plane-maker before it was spun off. Buying Spirit back would reverse a longtime Boeing strategy of outsourcing key work on its passenger planes. That approach has been criticized after problems at Spirit disrupted production and delivery of popular Boeing jetliners, including 737s and 787s.

Previous coverage: Boeing says it’s in talks to buy Spirit AeroSystems, key supplier on troubled 737 Max

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union expressed concern about the layoffs and said it would try to help workers who lose their jobs in the coming weeks.

“Together, we will continue to work to protect the strength of the aerospace industry in Wichita and ensure our members receive the assistance and resources they need to overcome this challenge and emerge stronger,” the union said.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

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Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems is laying off 450 after production of troubled 737s slows