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Spirit AeroSystems said to be exploring sale of fabrication work

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, June 3, 2014, at 6:19 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, June 13, 2014, at 7:01 a.m.

Spirit AeroSystems appears to be exploring the sale of its metal fabrication work to an outside company, sources have told The Eagle.

Todd Tiahrt, who announced his candidacy for Kansas’ 4th Congressional District seat last week, mentioned it in an article in the Kansas Republican Journal.

In the article, Tiahrt said he’s unhappy with the ways things are going in the aviation industry in Wichita.

“News of Spirit AeroSystems selling its fabrication unit tells me that time is wasting,” he said in the publication.

In an interview with The Eagle, Tiahrt explained that he recently received several calls from employees concerned about a potential sale, some who have attended meetings about it.

“I’m concerned,” Tiahrt said. “These are the kind of jobs that we want. When we hear that they’re at risk, it concerns me greatly. I take all these things seriously.”

Fabrication is the building of aircraft parts within Spirit’s machine shops.

A source with information on the issue also said Spirit is exploring the possibility of selling fabrication work or somehow moving it outside the company.

“I guarantee you that’s what’s happening,” said the source, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. “It’s absolutely the truth.”

Spirit AeroSystems spokesman Ken Evans said the company does not speculate about rumors and has nothing to announce at this time.

“Spirit is constantly evaluating the best ways to position the business for world-class performance,” Evans said.

Machinists union officials had no comment.

Cowen and Co. analyst Cai von Rumohr said the move might make sense for Spirit.

Spirit CEO Larry Lawson, a former Lockheed Martin executive, wants to renegotiate contracts to lower costs. Last year, Lawson and his team conducted comprehensive reviews of all Spirit programs.

Spirit has been open about trying to sell its Oklahoma facilities and has said it has seen some interest in the sites in Tulsa and McAlester.

“If he (Lawson) was to sell some of the backshop operations (in Wichita) to someone who could do it more cheaply, and they could get the product for less than they could do it themselves and free up assets, one would think that would be something they would consider,” von Rumohr said.

Depending on the numbers, “it’s something that might make sense,” he said.

Rep. Mike Pompeo did not attach a lot of validity to the rumors.

Spirit employees do great work, Pompeo said.

“The work force in Kansas is quite capable, and I know that Spirit believes they are as well,” Pompeo said. “I’m constantly working to increase the number of jobs in south central Kansas.”

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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