Spirit AeroSystems Ready To Boost 737 MAX Part Production

By Spyros Georgilidakis | May 2, 2024

Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems has “a high degree of confidence” that it can safely increase production of 737 fuselages, with no defects.

The blowout of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX-9 renewed scrutiny on Boeing and its suppliers, which had been easing since the return of the 737 MAX in service, following the 2018 and 2019 crashes and grounding.

Spirit AeroSystems Ready To Boost 737 MAX Part Production
Photo: Spirit Aerosystems

Spirit AeroSystems is a tier-one subcontractor that Boeing relies on heavily, to make the 737. The company makes the entire fuselage of the 737 family, along with other, smaller key components.

After the blowout in January, the FAA limited Boeing’s 737 production to 38 aircraft per month. But in practice, Boeing is producing less than half that number of 737s. And much of the FAA’s and the public’s focus on 737 production and quality issues, is directed at Spirit.

Photo: Dan Bennett, CC BY 2.0

The news now is that the supplier believes that it has developed a plan that can allow it to produce the number of 737 “shipsets” that Boeing needs, at the level of quality that Boeing expects.

Fixing 737 Production at Spirit

Previously, faults in Spirit parts cost Boeing a lot of time to fix, slowing down 737 production. This plus other supplier issues led to a lot of “traveled work”, i.e. aircraft moving ahead in the production line, with parts missing or needing more work.

A Boeing 737 assembly line in Renton.

The worry was that this practice could lead to quality missteps. Meanwhile, the slowdown in this year’s production means that Boeing’s finances have taken a severe hit. Slow deliveries also affect multiple airlines and lessors. DAE (Dubai Aerospace Enterprise) only expects to receive HALF of the Boeing jets it ordered this year.

Last September, Spirit AeroSystems got a new CEO: Pat Shanahan. His immediate goal was to find what Spirit needed to do, to sort out its 737 (and 787) production. This was after multiple production issues with the 737 (rear bulkhead, vertical stabilizer fittings) that emerged in 2023.

Spirit AeroSystems Ready To Boost 737 MAX Part Production
Photo: Spirit AeroSystems

Shanahan is an engineer, who has worked with Boeing for decades – going back before the giant’s merger with McDonnell Douglas. Some analysts view Shanahan as a potential candidate for CEO at Boeing, after the departure of Dave Calhoun. Boeing is expected to absorb Spirit later this year.

It isn’t clear if the new strategy that Spirit has now developed, to “fix” 737 production is a direct result of Shanahan’s work. But we will probably hear more about him and other prospective Boeing CEOs in the coming weeks and months.


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