Airbus, Boeing Much Closer To Spirit Break-up Deal?

By Spyros Georgilidakis | June 23, 2024

According to recent reports, Airbus and Boeing may be days away from announcing a three-way deal to split supplier Spirit AeroSystems.

It is not a secret that Boeing wants to buy Spirit AeroSystems. The tier-1 supplier was part of Boeing until 2005 when Boeing spun it off along with other aerostructures sites. The idea was to shed non-core assets that were underperforming, and what was then “Boeing Wichita” met the criteria.

Airbus, Boeing Much Closer To Spirit Break-up Deal?
The nose section of a KC-46 (767-based air refueling tanker). Photo: Spirit AeroSystems

Even at the time, many saw this as a questionable decision, to put it mildly. The Wichita site made large assemblies for ALL Boeing airliners – including the entire fuselage of the 737. In any case, that site soon became Spirit AeroSystems – and in addition to Boeing, it got Airbus on its customer list.

This happened because Spirit acquired other aerostructures companies, that worked for Airbus. Boeing remains responsible for over 60% of Spirit AeroSystems’ revenue, but it now also makes wings for the Airbus A220 and large composite fuselage structures for the A350.

Airbus, Boeing Much Closer To Spirit Break-up Deal?
Photo: Daniel Shapiro

Before the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX-9 door plug blowout, Boeing dismissed any thought of buying back Spirit. This would be a costly and embarrassing reversal of the earlier Boeing spinoff, and a complicated move, with Airbus now a Spirit customer.

Airbus Slowed Down Boeing – Spirit Talks

However, the MAX-9 blowout meant that regulators, lessors, and airlines soon started breathing down Boeing’s neck, demanding improvements in its production oversight and overall safety culture. And soon, reacquiring a supplier as vital as Spirit became a key way for Boeing to show that it really intends to mend its ways.

Photo: Spirit AeroSystems

Boeing hoped to complete the reacquisition quickly, i.e. before summer this year. However, it soon became clear that Airbus would be a bigger problem in this process than Boeing and Spirit thought. A key sticking point, but certainly not the only one, is the Belfast facility that makes A220 wings.

Airbus doesn’t want Boeing to own or control any sites making major components for its aircraft. It also doesn’t want Boeing to have access to the financial details of producing these key components.

Airbus, Boeing Much Closer To Spirit Break-up Deal?
Photo: Laurent ERRERA, CC BY-SA 2.0

It has also emerged that Airbus actually wants compensation for picking up non-profitable Spirit production sites, rather than simply buying them. This includes the A220 wing production site, and the A350 fuselage facility – the latter in Kinston, South Carolina.

The latest news is that the Boeing takeover is now much closer to happening after Spirit and Airbus made substantial progress on their side of the talks. Some parts of Spirit could continue to exist independently of the two manufacturers, since the company has other customers, including Northrop and Bombardier.

More details, or even the conclusion of the deal (or deals) could come in the coming week, or possibly in July.


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