Boeing in talks to re-acquire Spirit AeroSystems, maker of fuselage parts for troubled 737

The reintegration would help address safety concerns after Alaska Airlines door panel blowout incident, though no deal is imminent

Fuselages for Boeing's 737 Max await shipment at Spirit AeroSystems, in Wichita, Kansas. Reuters
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Boeing is in talks to re-acquire Spirit AeroSystems, the maker of fuselage parts for its troubled 737 Max aircraft, marking a shift in stance regarding outsourcing by the US plane maker.

The reintegration of Spirit into Boeing would address safety concerns, which came to a head on January 5 after an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 suffered a door panel blowout, Virginia-based Boeing said in a statement on Friday.

“We have been working closely with Spirit AeroSystems and its leadership to strengthen the quality of the commercial airplanes that we build together. We confirm that our collaboration has resulted in preliminary discussions about making Spirit AeroSystems a part of Boeing again,” it said.

“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.”

However, Boeing gave no assurance that an agreement will be reached, but stressed that it was “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”.

Kansas-based Spirit confirmed the talks, as well as the uncertainty that a deal will be agreed upon, in a separate statement on its website.

Spirit said that it is “currently engaged in discussions with Boeing about a possible acquisition … no assurances can be given that a definitive agreement will be entered into, that any transaction will be consummated, or the timing, terms or conditions of any such transaction”.

“The Spirit board of directors and management team are committed to enhancing shareholder value and regularly review the company’s opportunities to further this objective.”

A Boeing-Spirit reunion would mark a turnaround for the former, which had relied on outsourcing for the supply of its key aircraft parts.

However, following the Alaska Airlines blowout, Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun appeared to have changed his stance after the company's fourth-quarter earnings report, seeming to imply that the company may have gone too far with outsourcing.

The company's narrowed its loss to $30 million in the fourth quarter. Its stock, which tumbled after the Alaska Airlines incident, is now down nearly 21 per cent year-to-date.

Boeing's 737 programme is under scrutiny from regulators after the Alaska Airlines blowout. A rush of air blew through the aircraft after the panel broke off, damaging several seats and ripping off the insulation from the plane's walls.

That also caused several 737 planes to be grounded, as scrutiny ramped up from lawmakers, regulators and airlines themselves, as well as claim the job of 737 Max programme boss Ed Clark, who was fired on February 21.

Before the Alaska Airlines debacle, Boeing had urged airlines to inspect 737 Max aircraft for a possible loose bolt in the rudder control system.

Also in January, the US Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation after a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 passenger plane's nose wheel fell off and rolled away as the jet lined up for take-off.

Moment Boeing 747 spits flames after takeoff in Miami

Moment Boeing 747 spits flames after takeoff in Miami

All these prompted Boeing to step up inspections for the 737 Max and, along with Spirit, open its factories to airline customers for additional oversight.

Dubai's Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul airline and one of Boeing's biggest customers, had said it will send its own engineers to observe the production process of Boeing's 777 aircraft and Spirit following the latest safety issues.

Emirates president Tim Clark had said that Boeing has let its production standards slip and that it was in the “last chance saloon”, he told the Financial Times.

This week, Mr Clark called for changes at Boeing after the series of technical snags in the past couple of months.

Boeing has been given 90 days by the FAA to come up with a plan to improve quality and meet safety standards.

Updated: March 02, 2024, 9:43 AM