Boeing Confirms Discussions About Acquiring Spirit AeroSystems

The aircraft giant is looking into acquiring its contract parts manufacturer.

Spirit AeroSystems supplies components for Boeing aircraft including the fuselage for the 737 line. [Courtesy: Boeing]

Boeing is in discussions to acquire Spirit AeroSystems, the Wichita, Kansas-based manufacturer of fuselages for the Boeing 737 and other components.

Spirit AeroSystems was part of Boeing until 2005, when the company was split off and sold to private equity investors. Spirit continued its relationship with Boeing as a contractor, making components for aircraft that include the fuselage of the 737 line. According to investigators, Spirit AeroSystems built the fuselage with the door plug that failed in flight on January 5, resulting in an explosive decompression and a worldwide temporary grounding of the 737 Max 9 fleet.

The discussion to put the Spirit AeroSystems back under the Boeing umbrella is seen as an effort of improving quality control over the components and their installation in Boeing products.

According to a March 1 statement from Boeing, the company has been working closely with Spirit AeroSystems and its leadership to strengthen the quality of the commercial airplanes that they build together.

"We confirm that our collaboration has resulted in preliminary discussions about making Spirit AeroSystems a part of Boeing again," the Boeing statement reads. "We believe that the reintegration of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems' manufacturing operations would further strengthen aviation safety, improve quality, and serve the interests of our customers, employees, and shareholders. Although there can be no assurance that we will be able to reach an agreement, we are committed to finding ways to continue to improve the safety and quality of the airplanes on which millions of people depend each and every day."

FLYING reached out to Spirit AeroSystems but it did not respond by press time.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) preliminary report on the January 5 event, the fuselage with the door plug was shipped to Boeing's Renton, Washington, factory for aircraft final assembly. At Renton the technicians noted that some of the interior bulkhead rivets were improperly installed and needed to be replaced. This required the removal of part of the aircraft interior and the door plug. The door plug was then reinstalled but without the bolts necessary to keep it secure.

The aircraft became part of Alaska Airlines fleet and was put into service in November 2023. In December the flight crews noticed warning annunciations from the aircraft's pressurization system. These were documented and reported to maintenance, but the aircraft stayed in use because the pressurization system has a triple redundancy.

On January 5, as the aircraft climbed through 16,000 feet shortly after takeoff from Portland International Airport (KPDX) in Oregon the door plug blew off the aircraft, explosively depressurizing the cabin. The flight crew declared an emergency, and the aircraft returned to KPDX.

There were no serious injuries, but the FAA grounded all 737 Max 9s until the door plugs could be inspected.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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