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Spirit AeroSystems, A Major Supplier Of Boeing's 737 Max Jets, Lays Off 2,800 Staff

A Boeing 737 Max airplane being built for Norwegian Air International taxis for a test flight, at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash.
Ted S. Warren
A Boeing 737 Max airplane being built for Norwegian Air International taxis for a test flight, at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash.

Jet parts maker Spirit AeroSystems announced Friday it was laying off thousands of employees, the latest impact of the halt in production of Boeing's troubled 737 Max planes.

The Wichita-based company saidthe staff cuts will affect roughly 2,800 employees. It said it came to the decision because it is unclear when Boeing will resume making the once in-demand aircraft.

Boeing's Max planes have been grounded worldwide since March, following a pair of deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019 killed a combined 346 people.

News of the Spirit AeroSystems layoffs comes a day after Boeing released a batch of internal documents, including emails from employees mocking staff at the Federal Aviation Administration and showing disdain for architects of the jetliner.

One email said, "This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys."

Spirit AeroSystems calls itself a "significant supplier" to the Max program, building parts including thrust reversers, wing components, engine pylons and the entire fuselage. The company added "the MAX represents more than 50 percent of Spirit's annual revenue."

"The difficult decision announced today is a necessary step given the uncertainty related to both the timing for resuming 737 MAX production and the overall production levels that can be expected following the production suspension," Spirit AeroSystems President and CEO Tom Gentile said in a statement.

"We are taking these actions to balance the interests of all of our stakeholders as a result of the grounding of the 737 MAX, while also positioning Spirit to meet future demand."

Boeing announced last month it was suspending productionof its 737 Max as of January. The company said at the time it did not plan to layoff or furlough Boeing workers who build the plane, but would reassign them.

But as NPR has reported, the cease in production was expected to reverberate throughout Boeing's extensive supply chain.

Spirit AeroSystems said this week it was seeking voluntary layoffs, according to Nadya Faulx, a reporter at member station KMUW.

She tells NPR, "In addition to work on the 737, Spirit also builds parts for the Boeing 787, and 767, and parts for various Airbus jets at multiple facilities worldwide."

Spirit AeroSystems also plans additional smaller layoffs at its plants in Tulsa and McAlester, Okla., later this month.

Spirit AeroSystems said late last month, it had received a directive "to stop all 737 MAX deliveries to Boeing" effective at the start of the new year.

Three days after that announcement, Boeing ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg, citing the need "to restore confidence in the Company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders."

David Calhoun, Boeing's new chief executive, starts on Monday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.