Spirit AeroSystems celebrated the completion of its 5,000th Boeing Next-Generation 737 fuselage inside the plant Wednesday morning.
Spirit is proud of its partnership with Boeing and the work it does to build the world’s best-selling airplane, Spirit president and CEO Larry Lawson said.
“You talk about an iconic airplane,” Lawson said.
He praised employees working on the 737, saying they deliver the product reliably and on time.
“We’re fortunate to have such a dedicated group of people,” he told the crowd of workers, executives, government leaders and others gathered for the event.
Spirit builds the fuselage, engine struts and nacelles, about 70 percent of the 737’s structure. Its Oklahoma facility produces wing components.
Spirit ships the fuselage to Boeing’s Renton, Wash., facility by rail. The 5,000th fuselage has left the plant and will arrive in Renton late Friday night or early Saturday morning.
There is tough competition to face, however, Lawson said.
“This is the model everyone else wants to replicate,” he said. Others want these kinds of partnerships, and they want to take jobs away from Spirit.
“We do have a big responsibility,” Lawson said. “They’re out there competing with us.”
Gov. Sam Brownback attended the celebration, saying that Spirit’s site is the place that helped defeat the Nazis during World War II as it turned out bombers and aircraft used during the war.
In addition, Spirit produces products for a global market today.
“You guys are a big part of what our future is all about,” he said.
Boeing is raising production rates on the popular single-aisle aircraft. Production has increased to 42 737s a month and will rise again in 2017 to 47 per month.
“It truly is astonishing when you think about demand for this product,” said Erik Nelson, Boeing vice president on the 737. “Spirit has stayed with us every step of the way.”
Spirit is preparing for production rate increases and looking at how it configures the factory and the investments it needs to make over the next two years, Lawson said.
“Most of what we’ll do with the 737 will be underneath this roof right here,” he said.