Spirit AeroSystems' work content on the Boeing 737 airframe may grow as the production rate increases to 42 per month over the next two years.

The aerostructures supplier is in discussions about moving more work from the Boeing's 737 final assembly line in Renton, Washington, back to its facilities in Wichita, Kansas.

The goal "is to take flow days out of their process, and we can bring that flow back here," David Coleal, senior vice president and general manager for the fuselage segment, tells analysts during an "investor day" presentation on 7 March.

Spirit AeroSystems currently builds the fuselage, some flight control surfaces on the wings, engine pylons and floor beams and seat tracks for the 737.

The fuselage is shipped by train to Renton, where Boeing attaches the wings, tail components, engines, nacelles, landing gear and nose radome.

The current discussions are focused on doing more of the systems integration work in Wichita before the fuselage is shipped to Renton, Coleal says.

"There are early parts of the 737 line that could make a lot of sense to do here," Coleal says.

Boeing has recently increased 737 production from 31.5 to 35 per month. By the second quarter of 2013, Boeing plans to raise the rate again to 38. Finally, in the first half of 2014, 737 production will grow to 42 per month.

It is not yet clear how Boeing will design the production rate for the 737 Max, the newly-launched version of the venerable narrowbody with all-new engines.

For Spirit AeroSystems, increasing the rate beyond 42 aircraft per month could involve increasing the amount of automation on the line, Coleal says.

But Boeing's largest 737 structures supplier also wants to keep any changes to a minimum. Ideally, Spirit AeroSystems' workers will not know the difference between a 737 Next Generation fuselage and a 737 Max fuselage, says Buck Buchanan, senior vice president of advanced projects for Spirit AeroSystems.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news