Spirit AeroSystems unveils $1bn Wichita expansion

Spirit AeroSystems plans to add 1,000 jobs and invest $1 billion over the next five years in Wichita, Kansas, as the aerostructures firm prepares for rising commercial aircraft production rates and growth in the company’s defence business, which includes a supplier role on the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider.

The five-year plan announced on 6 December tentatively includes the potential construction – pending an agreement with city and county officials -- of a new production facility on the north end of Spirit AeroSystems’ property, which is adjacent to the headquarters of Spirit Defense.

“Spirit is a global company with sites across the world, and we will continue to grow where it makes sense for the business. We have deep roots in Wichita, and we are here for the long-haul,” says chief executive Tom Gentile.

The company was formed in 2005 from the spin-off of Boeing’s Wichita division. The company continues to make 70% of each 737 delivered, the nose section of the 787 and major components of Boeing’s large aircraft programmes. Since 2005, Spirit AeroSystems also has diversified as a major component assembly supplier for Airbus, but mainly at other sites than Wichita.

Most recently, the company has been building up its defence portfolio, supplying the fuselage for the Bell Helicopter V-280 tiltrotor demonstrator and gaining a coveted position on the secretive B-21 bomber programme.

Spirit AeroSystems describes the proposed new building as a multi-use facility to support "several parts of the business", but details about its size are unavailable. Wichita city and Sedgewick county officials have agreed in principle to contribute to the costs of construction, but the work won’t start until the agreements are definitised, Spirit AeroSystems says.

In addition to new defence work, Spirit AeroSystems is seeking to obtain a role on future commercial aircraft programmes, including Boeing’s proposed New Mid-market Airplane (NMA), a notional family of aircraft with 200-270 seats and about 5,000nm range.

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