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As industry struggles, Spirit, Boeing announce efforts to consolidate production

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 11:35 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As many airlines resort to layoffs after federal assistance ran out, aviation manufacturers are making changes of their own. Thursday, Spirit AeroSystems and Boeing announced efforts to consolidate production.

Since the start of 2020, Spirit has laid off more than 5,000 workers in Wichita. Thursday, the company announced the closure of one of its facilities in Oklahoma to deal with continued stresses from the COVID-19 pandemic and grounding of the 737 MAX.

“The shoe that has dropped is so big and so heavy and has come down so hard,” Aviation Industry Consultant Scott Hamilton said. “It’s almost unfathomable to think of a worse-case scenario.”

Thursday, Spirit announced the closure of its McAllister, Okla. facility and relocating that work to sites in Wichita and Tulsa. Boeing also said its consolidating production of the 787 Dreamliner from Washington state to South Carolina.

“The COVID crisis has caused production to be reduced dramatically across all the Boeing airplanes, as Spirit well knows,” Hamilton said.

With airlines suffering, there is less demand for planes and parts. Hamilton said it’s difficult to judge when the industry will recover because there are too many unknowns.

“It’s really a guess, but the consensus guess is that we could be back to 2019 passenger levels by (2023), (2024) and production maybe by (2025),” Hamilton said.

Even once airlines see more passengers, it’s not an immediate round of bringing back laid-off employees. With the wait for the industry’s recovery, a lot of people are feeling the pain including from aviation manufacturers and suppliers to Main Street businesses.

“Ripple effect. Here in Washington, for every direct job by Boeing, there are three or four indirect jobs,” Hamilton said.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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