Longtime Spirit AeroSystems executive Samantha Marnick has left the company and her role as chief operating officer (COO), a change the company describes as part of an effort to improve its operation and product quality.

The Wichita-based manufacturer disclosed Marnick’s departure on 28 November but does not specify why she left. Marnick had also been president of Spirit’s commercial aviation business.

The news comes as Spirit seeks to repair a troubled production system and reverse substantial financial losses stemming largely from unprofitable production of components for commercial jets.

Spirit 737 assembly-c-Spirit AeroSystems

Source: Spirit AeroSystems

Spirit has struggled recently with high-profile quality lapses, including an ongoing issue involving defective drill holes in 737 pressure bulkheads

In late September, Spirit replaced former chief executive Tom Gentile with new CEO Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who has made a priority of renegotiating supply contracts with Airbus and Boeing.

Spirit has not named Marnick’s successor but has hired Terry George, a Spirit and Boeing veteran, to manage some operational aspects as interim senior vice-president. That role involves overseeing Spirit’s operations in Wichita and Tulsa, including its fabrication, engineering and tooling work, Spirit says.

George worked for decades at Spirit and its corporate predecessor Boeing, which in 2005 divested the operation that became Spirit. Most recently, George has been a part-time advisor to Spirit. Previously, he was head of advanced manufacturing and product development, director of operations, and vice-president of Spirit’s 787 work, according to LinkedIn.

George joined Boeing in 1983 and worked there during the same time as Spirit CEO Shanahan.

“Sam has been a key member of Spirit’s leadership team for a number of years, serving across multiple roles and events,” says Spirit board chair Bob Johnson.

Marnick “played a pivotal role in establishing Spirit as an independent company”, adds Shanahan.

Spirit declines to specify why Marnick departed but says it made “changes to strengthen operational alignment and programme execution”.

“We are taking this opportunity to realign, to enhance programme execution and integration across operations,” Shanahan says.

Spirit has been struggling operationally and financially since the 737 Max grounding and subsequent pandemic-driven industry downturn – events necessitating drastic production cuts. Shortages of skilled workers and other supply chain troubles have hindered Spirit’s recovery. Spirit has also suffered several quality problems, including a recent issue involving defective holes in 737 aft-pressure bulkheads.

The company produces 737 fuselages – which generate close to half its revenue – and structural components for most other Boeing and Airbus jets. Notably, it makes composite components for 787s, A220s and A350s. That composite work has been particularly financially draining, especially with slow production rates, executive have said.

Spirit has recently been working to right its ship, including by hiring former Boeing executive Shanahan as its new CEO. In October, the company secured a financially beneficial new supply agreement with Boeing. Shanahan said early this month that Spirit is also seeking revised terms with Airbus.

Marnick became COO in July 2020 and in September 2021 took on the additional job of president of the company’s commercial aviation division. Marnick had previously been Spirit’s chief administration officer, vice-president of labour relations and workforce strategy, and director of communications and employee engagement.