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Boeing Fronts Spirit Cash for Fuselage Fix

Boeing's CEO called the problem a "gnarly defect."

Last month, a part problem forced Boeing to delay a "significant number" of 737 Max planes after it was discovered that supplier Spirit AeroSystems used a "non-standard manufacturing process" to install fittings towards the back of the planes. Turns out that the FAA gets pretty specific about how everything on a plane needs to be manufactured and installed. 

While the problem didn't cause an immediate safety issue, and 737s in service can continue flying, for now, it's unknown how many planes are affected by the problem. Though the problem does date back to at least 2019. 

Well, last week, the Wichita Business Journal reported that Boeing doesn't plan to leave Spirit high and dry.

On a recent earnings call, Boeing CEO David Calhoun called the problem a "gnarly defect" that is nearly impossible to spot after assembly. The issue is located where the tail attaches to the fuselage and a sealant is placed over the fittings before the tail is installed so, it wouldn't be caught by the casual observer. Reportedly, some cracking helped an employee identify the problem, which otherwise wouldn't have been caught. 

Boeing, Spirit and the FAA are working together on a fix, which Calhoun says is an indicator of a healthy supply chain, and Boeing plans to help out its partner, including fronting Spirit an unspecified amount of cash. 

The fix shouldn't take too long, weeks, maybe months, but not years and aircraft currently in production will be easier to fix than those already in service. 

The 737 is a big deal for Spirit, which makes the full fuselages in Wichita, Kansas. The company makes some 70% of aircraft's structure, and the work accounts for nearly half of Spirit's business.

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