Spirit blames design changes for latest G280 charge

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Gulfstream plans to introduce the G280 mid-size business jet into service by mid-year, but the programme continues to face an unexpected rash of design changes that are disrupting manufacturing, according to a key supplier.

Spirit AeroSystems, the G280 wing supplier, recorded a new $29 million charge on the programme in the fourth quarter last year. The Wichita, Kansas-based aerostructures specialist had previously taken $106 million in write-downs on the G280 programme.

But Spirit's executives had a different explanation for the latest charge. While the company previously accepted responsibility for the write-downs, it is now shifting the blame partly back to Gulfstream.

"A great deal of this continues to be driven by engineering changes," said Philip Anderson, senior vice president and chief financial officer, during a 9 February teleconference with analysts.

"We are still dealing with a fair amount of that [in terms of] development maturity of design," Anderson said.

Later on, chief executive Jeff Turner was asked by the analysts to elaborate on the amount of design changes on the G280.

"I would say categorically as we characterize it, [the G280] still has not settled down like it needs to in terms of the engineering design changes," said Turner. "And therefore the production side of that is still more disrupted than we would like to be. That drives [extra costs] into our supply chain and into our assembly. Clearly, we would have liked to have managed that better."

Gulfstream did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The G280 received provisional certification by the Israeli government in late December, but full certification by the US Federal Aviation Administration is not expected until mid-year, according to General Dynamics, the parent company of Gulfstream.

The G280, which replaces the G200 series, features a high-speed wing. Gulfstream rolled out the first G280 at the final assembly factory in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2008.

Spirit AeroSystems originally assembled the wing in Tusla, Oklahoma, but decided last year to move some assembly work to a new factory in Kinston, North Carolina.