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Monday, July 28, 2014

Spirit says it’s making progress on cleanup, fixes

By Molly McMillin
The Wichita Eagle

Spirit AeroSystems continues to make progress on cleanup and its recovery plan following a Saturday tornado that left extensive damage in its wake.

The company has suspended operations, and employees will remain on call for the rest of the week, officials said Tuesday.

Only employees who receive a call from their managers should report to work this week. The date when workers will return will depend on where they work and what they do, the company told employees.

“Your management team will bring you back as soon as possible, so we can return to full production,” an update to employees said. “Decisions on who gets to come back into work depend on each situation, driven by specific circumstances, such as the requirements of production and safety of the area.”

Employees can use earned time off and vacation for work missed. Employees represented by the Machinists union and salaried workers will be able to use sick leave if they don’t have vacation. And employees without either will be listed as an excused absence, the company said.

The main goal, said Machinists spokesman Steve Rooney, is to get people back to work as quickly as possible.

“People want to work,” Rooney said. “We want them back to work.”

But safety is the first concern.

“They’re still evaluating the structure,” Rooney said.

“It’s not like they’re going to flip a switch and everybody’s back.”

The plant in south Wichita has been busy with work related to Boeing’s 737 jetliner and other products, Rooney said. The site is a key supplier for all Boeing commercial airliners. Boeing currently is producing 32 737s, seven 777s and three 787s a month.

Employees will work hard when they return to catch up, Rooney aid.

“We’ve got a lot to face this year (with deliveries) … and this (the tornado) took some out of that,” he said. “I know our hourly workforce. They’re definitely good, qualified workers. I’m sure when we get them back in and get them back to work, they will get this back on track quickly.”

In the meantime, debris cleanup is under way at Spirit and significant roofing repairs have begun.

Roofing crews from Wichita, Oklahoma City, Houston and Denver are at work, said spokeswoman Debbie Gann. The work includes temporary fixes on the roofs.

“There’s a chance of rain on Thursday, and one of our priorities is to get them covered up,” Gann said.

The company doesn’t yet have an estimate of the dollar amount of the losses, she said.

Power has been restored to the site, but not to every building. Natural gas and compressed air are being restored on a priority basis, and water is back on in most of the facilities. E-mail and websites were back working Tuesday.

The company is still finding most of its production capabilities intact, and most equipment and product looks good, it said.

It’s working closely with customers to continue to provide the products they need, the company said in an update.

“We still expect to make some shipments to customers this week,” Spirit said.

At other plants

In the meantime, Boeing employees should report to work today. Boeing’s Wichita facilities sustained damage from the tornado, and operations were suspended Monday and Tuesday.

Cessna Aircraft’s Pawnee facility in southeast Wichita received some minor damage. And Hawker Beechcraft had some damage. But it was business as usual at both sites, Rooney said.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com

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