Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems to lay off hundreds of staff days after whistleblower’s sudden death

Decision was announced in memo to Kansas-based staff of aerospace supplier

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Friday 17 May 2024 00:31 BST
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Aerospace supplier Spirit AeroSystems announced plans to lay off between 400 and 450 members of its workforce in the coming days, amid the chaos at one of the company’s key clients, Boeing.

“The recent slowdown in the delivery rate on commercial programs compels a reduction to our workforce in Wichita,” an internal memo, obtained by Kansas-based outlet KSNW, read. “In the coming weeks, we will inform affected employees. We are committed to implementing this transition in as compassionate a manner as possible.”

Boeing has been dogged in recent months with issues, including the metal door plug of an Alaska Airlines jet suddenly blowing out at 16,000 feet in January. Whistleblowers have alleged quality control oversights on the company’s 737 Max 9 jets, leading to an FAA investigation and the worldwide grounding of the aircraft in January.

Boeing posted a $355m net loss in its first quarter, and CEO Dave Calhoun announced in March he would step down at the end of the year.

The company’s woes have traveled downstream, with Spirit announcing earlier this month a $616.7m first-quarter loss, a period in which Boeing slowed 737 production to add additional safety measures.

Joshua Dean, a former quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems, which was spun off from Boeing in 2005, was among those who publically claimed that Boeing leadership ignored manufacturing defects in the 737 Max.

In a complaint to the FAA, Dean alleged “serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line” at Spirit.

He later testified that the company “concealed from investors that Spirit suffered from widespread and sustained quality failures.”

In January, Dean told the Wall Street Journal that he had been fired for pointing out that holes in jet fuselages had been drilled wrong.

The company told the paper Dean’s characterisations were incorrect and that Spirit would defend itself in court.

The whistleblower died in early May after a sudden infection, the second Boeing-related whistleblower to die in recent months.

Graig Graziosi and Maroosha Muzaffar contributed reporting to this story.

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