Spirit seeking to hire hundreds of mechanics

Spirit AeroSystems plans to hire hundreds of mechanics as it raises production rates of the Boeing 737 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Last year, Boeing raised production of its popular single-aisle 737 from 35 a month to 38 a month. It’s now going to 42 per month.

The 787 rate of production, meanwhile, is rising from seven per month to 10 per month. That’s the highest volume for any twin-aisle program at Boeing.

No twin-aisle program has been in the double digits, said Spirit executive vice president David Coleal.

“We are executing the rate increases that have been in our plan,” he said.

Demand for commercial aircraft has been robust and unprecedented through the economic downturn, Coleal said. “This is evidence of that continuing.”

Forecasts predict that demand will double over the next 20 years.

The addition to Spirit’s hourly workforce comes after two rounds of recent reductions in its salaried and managerial workforce.

The company has laid off 510 employees in Wichita and Tulsa in two rounds of cuts. It also is offering voluntary retirement and layoff options to additional staff members.

It’s too soon to say how many people will volunteer.

“This is where people are wondering how you can be hiring if you’re going through a reduction in force,” Coleal said. “One thing we’re always doing is reviewing our work structure. Is it the most efficient? Are we serving customers?”

The company is reviewing every program and restructuring to make sure it has the right employees in the right places.

“It is difficult for those that had to go through a reduction,” Coleal said. “We do it with the utmost respect and care. We don’t take it lightly, but we have obligations to our customers and our shareholders that we have to be thoughtful of, too.”

The addition of mechanics will take place over the next 90 days and into early next year, Coleal said.

“We’re looking for talented individuals ... who can come into our factory,” he said.

Spirit is seeking qualified employees in the Wichita area and through training programs at the Wichita Area Technical Institute.

Spirit is also working with its Machinists union to identify potential candidates.

“We’re going to make sure everybody who’s available and capable who meets the appropriate requirements that we’re working with them,” Coleal said.

Spirit’s website makeitfly.aero lists openings for a variety of mechanics, inspectors and manufacturing support positions.

Company officials hope the Wichita region can support its needs, Coleal said. “If we have to go beyond that, we’ll make those decisions in pretty short order.”