April 20, 2024

Boeing 737 Max fuselages at Spirit Aersosystems headquarters in Wichita, Kansas

Boeing 737 Max fuselages at Spirit Aersosystems headquarters in Wichita, Kansas
Photo: Nick Oxford (Reuters)

Dave Calhoun may not be the CEO of beleaguered plane manufacturer Boeing for much longer, but he may have one more task up his sleeve before his retirement at the end of the year — on top of stabilizing the ever-growing 737 Max mess.

In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Calhoun gave an update about reported merger negotiations between Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems, the fuselage supplier behind the troubled 737 Max 9 plane that had a door plug blowout during a January flight by Alaska Airlines. The network’s Phil LeBeau asked whether the deal was still likely to get done. “Yes, I hope it’s soon,” Calhoun said.

A family reunion

Spirit used to be a part of Boeing. The former parent company sold off its fuselage operations in 2005 to Canadian private equity firm Onex Corp. Spirit went public the next year. According to the latest Spirit annual report, Boeing still accounts for 70% of its business, though about a quarter of its revenues also come from Boeing rival Airbus.

In a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board during its investigation in the Alaska Airlines incident, the regulator found that four crucial bolts that were supposed to hold the door plug in place went missing sometime when a Spirit crew went in to fix some damaged rivets and when Boeing workers signed off on restoring the plane’s interior following the repair.

“It’s a critical supply for us, critical,” Calhoun said. “It’s our fuselage. When you go out in the factory, the first thing you’re going to see is our fuselage. It’s a Boeing fuselage. Our job is to make sure mechanics and engineers freely travel between the shop floor and the design effort, and that they can help one another every step of the way. Vertical integration is the only way to accomplish that.”

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