Boeing Halts 737 MAX Fuselage Production

A key supplier of fuselage parts for the Boeing 737 MAX has been told by the planemaker to down tools immediately. Spirit Aerosystems has been instructed to stop working on four fuselages that were in progress, and not to start on the next 16. This is a clear indication that Boeing is being cautious about its output levels amid the current crisis.

Boeing spirit Aerosystems 737MAX getty images
Spirit Aerosystems has laid off 900 workers as a result of the production stop. Photo: Getty Images

Spirit told to down tools

Despite news that Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX is nearing its recertification flights, the uncertainty in the aviation market right now has left another hurdle in the path of the narrowbody’s return. With order cancellations and delivery deferrals pouring in, Boeing has had to put the brakes on the production of the type until the future becomes a little clearer.

Today, the extent of that slowdown became painfully apparent as major supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, revealed that it had been told by Boeing to stop working on four 737 MAX fuselages. It was further told not to begin production on a further 16, which should have been delivered this year.

In a statement published today, Spirit said,

“On June 4, 2020, Spirit AeroSystems received a letter from Boeing directing Spirit to pause additional work on four 737 MAX shipsets and avoid starting production on sixteen 737 MAX shipsets to be delivered in 2020, until otherwise directed by Boeing, in order to support Boeing’s alignment of near-term delivery schedules to its customers’ needs in light of COVID-19’s impact on air travel and airline operations, and in order to mitigate the expenditure of potential unnecessary production costs.

“Based on the information in the letter, subsequent correspondence from Boeing dated June 9, 2020, and Spirit’s discussions with Boeing regarding 2020 737 MAX production, Spirit believes there will be a reduction to Spirit’s previously disclosed 2020 737 MAX production plan of 125 shipsets. Spirit does not yet have definitive information on what the magnitude of the reduction will be but expects it will be more than 20 shipsets.”

Boeing spirit Aerosystems 737MAX getty images
 The stop is a combination of COVID impacts and the ongoing grounding. Photo: Getty Images

Spirit lays the blame for this latest shutdown on a combination of the ongoing grounding of the type, as well as the impact of COVID-19. As a result, it has placed its Wichita-based employees who work on the 737 MAX on a 21-day furlough from June 15. As well as this, Spirit’s workers in Tulsa and Oklahoma will be immediately placed on reduced hours.

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900 workers furloughed

In total, around 900 employees will be subjected to the three-week furlough. This comes on top of approximately 1,450 jobs that were cut earlier this year due to a reduced demand for airline parts. These are just at Wichita. Other locations have also suffered.

It’s the second time in just a few months that this key Boeing supplier has suffered at the hands of the 737 MAX. In December, Boeing announced it would pause its production completely. Spirit Aerosystems soon followed suit. At that time, voluntary layoffs were offered to a huge proportion of its workforce.

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The supplier remains committed to the program. Photo: Getty

Despite all the problems it has endured, the supplier remains positive about the future. It concluded its statement today saying,

“Spirit remains a proud partner on the 737 MAX program and looks forward to working with Boeing to ensure the long-term success of the program.”

With Boeing only having resumed production of the 737 MAX a few weeks ago, hopes were high that it was on the road to recovery. But with the aviation industry facing its worst crisis in history, it’s not surprising the planemaker is being cautious about its output.