Airbus Wants to Get Spirit A220 Wing Site – PLUS Compensation!

By Spyros Georgilidakis | May 3, 2024

Airbus is willing to buy the Spirit AeroSystems factory that makes A220 wings. But the European manufacturer wants compensation to do so!

We have seen that Spirit AeroSystems is in the spotlight in recent months, as the maker of the Boeing 737 fuselage. The Wichita-based company makes large aerostructures for all Boeing jets. But Spirit is also an Airbus supplier, making the wings of the A220 and fuselage sections for the A350.

Spirit has facilities worldwide now. This is in Sait Nazaire, France. Photo: Duch, CC BY-SA 4.0

Spirit also makes smaller components for other Airbus jets, but it appears that the sticking points in the discussions are the A220 wing site in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and possibly the A350 fuselage site in Kinston, North Carolina. Both of these sites are key to Airbus.

We know that Boeing wants to acquire the bulk of Spirit AeroSystems and hopes to do so sometime this summer. But if/when this happens, Airbus doesn’t want facilities that are key to its supply chain to fall under Boeing’s or anyone else’s control. Aside from intellectual property issues, Airbus also doesn’t want others to access pricing and other information about its parts.

Airbus Wants to Get Spirit A220 Wing Site – PLUS Compensation!
Photo: Air France

To what extent it is possible to avoid such a transfer of information completely, is an interesting question. For example, Spirit’s current CEO, Pat Shanahan, has been mentioned as a prospective future Boeing CEO, after Calhoun’s departure later this year.

Airbus, Spirit, The A220 Wing Factory and Compensation

In any case, the problem for Airbus is that the A220 and A350 Spirit factories are both making losses. And if it is to acquire them, Airbus wants compensation for doing so, for that reason. The argument appears to be that it is Boeing who urgently needs to absorb “its” part of Spirit, making the company’s breakup necessary.

Airbus Wants to Get Spirit A220 Wing Site – PLUS Compensation!
Photo: Spirit AeroSystems

From its side, Boeing has been reluctant to absorb Spirit, until the 737 MAX-9 blowout last January. The American manufacturer owned the Wichita facilities of what is now Spirit until 2005. Before that, the site was called “Boeing Wichita”. Boeing now wants to reacquire the company, to better control the quality and production of these key facilities.

However, it seems that Airbus won’t help Boeing put its house in order that easily. The Airbus A220 wing production site in Belfast reportedly needs an investment of over $1 billion, to become profitable. It is not clear how much investment the Kinston A350 plant needs, or if Airbus is pursuing different arrangements in that case.

Photo: Air France

However, Boeing probably won’t want to have to pay Airbus in this process. Reacquiring Spirit is a costly-enough exercise for Boeing. Airbus has previously indicated that acquiring some key Spirit sites is possible, since “…there are not many companies in the world that could be good owners for these activities”, from its point of view.


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