Boeing tells Spirit AeroSystems to pause MAX work

Fuselage supplier for 737 MAX programme will lay off workers and says it believes Boeing will further cut previously agreed work.

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Boeing's multitude of legal and safety problems have slowed deliveries. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The main supplier for Boeing’s 737 MAX programme, Spirit AeroSystems, which produces the 737 MAX fuselages or shipsets, said Wednesday (10 June) it received a letter from Boeing on 4 June telling it to “pause additional work on four 737 MAX shipsets and avoid starting production on 16 737 MAX shipsets to be delivered in 2020, until otherwise directed by Boeing, in order to support Boeing’s alignment of near-term delivery schedules to its customers’ needs in light of COVID-19’s impact on air travel and airline operations, and in order to mitigate the expenditure of potential unnecessary production costs”.

Grounded 737 MAX models. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Based on the information in the letter and additional talks with Boeing on 737 MAX production for 2020, “Spirit believes there will be a reduction to Spirit’s previously disclosed 2020 737 MAX production plan of 125 shipsets. Spirit does not yet have definitive information on what the magnitude of the reduction will be but expects it will be more than 20 shipsets”.

Spirit said it was still working with Boeing to “determine a definitive production plan for 2020 and manage the 737 MAX production system and supply chain”. The company said as a result of the new moves by Boeing, Spirit will place “hourly employees directly associated with production work and support functions for the 737 MAX program on a 21 calendar day unpaid temporary layoff/furlough” effective 15 June in at its Kansas plants and said facilities in Oklahoma will also be affected starting 12 June. A Boeing official could not be reached for comment.

Boeing announced in May it would restart production of the 737 MAX, which has been grounded for more than a year following two crashes that killed 346 people. The company did not disclose its exact monthly production rate but it is thought to be about one jet per month. The company has also been dealing with cancelled orders, first as a result of the grounding and now because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has all but halted commercial passenger traffic. The MAX backlog is thought to be more than 3,800 airplanes, which  reflects some 500-plus cancellations or reclassifications of orders to credit-challenged customers, according to reports.

Spirit has about 120 completed fuselages in storage. A new agreement reduced the number of new production fuselages Boeing wanted this year from 216 to 125. The stored fuselages are customer-specific, although the stored aircraft could be reconfigured for a different customer. Spirit previously said it would take up to two years to clear the inventory.


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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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