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    Thursday, May 9, 2024

    Spirit AeroSystems Invest in Belfast Factory, Ramps Up Production for Airbus A220

    Spirit AeroSystems is to invest in its Belfast factory and hire more staff as it ramps up production for the Airbus A220.

    However, the company said it was still in dispute with Airbus over how much it should be paid for A220 work.

    The United States firm is one of Northern Ireland's largest and most important manufacturing businesses with more than 3,000 employees.

    Spirit is also the subject of a wider negotiation which could see Airbus buy its entire Belfast operation.

    It makes the wings and other parts for the A220 airliner.

    'Significant investment'

    Airbus wants to step up the production rate of the A220 by 50% in 2024, with another increase in 2025.

    Spirit’s chief financial officer, Mark Suchinski, said that would require significant investment in equipment and machinery at the Belfast operation.

    "That capital expenditure has to start to take place in the back half of this year and into 2025 so we can meet those production rate ramps," he told industry analysts.

    He said the company was hiring and training people to meet the higher production rates, adding there was "further hiring that will need to be done" into 2025 and 2026.

    Mr. Suchinski was speaking as the company announced a $167m (£133.5m) first quarter loss on its A220 work.

    That was blamed primarily on the failure to reach agreement with Airbus on a revised financial deal for that work which also meant the firm had to reverse previous assumptions about what it would be paid.


    Spirit chief executive Pat Shanahan said the Airbus talks were at an "impasse" but he remained confident a deal would be reached.

    "Almost to a fault we have tried to find solutions to this situation. Our commitment has been to the integrity of supply," he said.

    He added that Spirit required a deal which meant it could be a financially strong business.

    "Financial risk ultimately manifests itself as operational risk. The system is elastic until it’s not," he added.

    Spirit has been in Northern Ireland since 2019 when it bought Bombardier's operations, ending a long period of uncertainty for the workforce.

    However, the ownership of the Belfast operation is now in question again because of problems in Spirit's US business.

    Spirit began life as a spin-off from Boeing in 2005 and remains a key Boeing supplier, particularly for the Boeing 737.

    Some of its work for the company has suffered from delays and quality issues, which has exacerbated problems at Boeing.

    Boeing wants to buy Spirit as a way to deal with its production problems and any deal is likely to involve spinning off the parts of the Spirit business which supply Airbus.

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