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Spirit AeroSystems eyes Boeing's next aircraft and more A220 work

Spirit AeroSystems views Airbus's effort to trim A220 manufacturing costs as a chance land new contracts by beating out existing competitors.

The aircraft structures company also intends to bid for a contract to supply components for Boeing's proposed New Mid-market Airplane, assuming that programme advances, says Spirit chief executive Thomas Gentile.

"The biggest opportunity at Airbus for us is probably the A220," Gentile says on 7 February during an investor event hosted by financial services company Cowen.

"On the NMA, we feel we offer a compelling value proposition," he adds. "We will leverage that as we make a proposal."

Gentile's comments come several weeks after top Airbus executives stressed they are working to reduce A220 production costs, both by improving internal processes and by seeking cost concessions from suppliers.

Those executives did not specify which suppliers or which aircraft components from which they hope to wrest savings.

Gentile sees opportunity.

"Airbus has said very clearly they need to get costs down on that aircraft to make it a long-term attractive programme," he says. "There's a big opportunity for us to get more work packages on the A220 to help out on Airbus's cost challenge."

Wichita-based Spirit specialises in making large aircraft structures like fuselages, nacelles, engine pylons and wing components for a range of Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

Spirit makes engine pylons for the A220. Other A220 suppliers include China-based fuselage maker Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, nacelle maker Collins Aerospace and wing manufacturer Bombardier.

Gentile views additional A220 work as potentially backfilling revenue that might be lost if Spirit cedes to Airbus's insistence for A220 pylon discounts.

In addition to the A220, Spirit is eying Boeing's proposed NMA, a concept for an aircraft with roughly 200-270 seats and range of 4,000-5,000nm (7,400-9,300km). Boeing has said it will decided whether to launch that programme in 2020.

Spirit's NMA interest would largely include manufacturing the types of structures it already makes for the 787, which include engine pylons, wing leading edges and forward fuselages, Gentile notes.

He stresses Spirit's experience designing and manufacturing large, composite aircraft structures. "We have developed unique expertise," he says.

Gentile adds that a recent agreement Spirit signed with Boeing "positions us well to compete" for new work. He does elaborate, but that deal, announced in December 2018, set conditions related to Spirit's long-term supply of commercial aircraft components to Boeing.

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