Seattle-area Boeing workers waiting for news on tornado-damaged supplier



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Posted on April 16, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 16 at 5:41 PM

SEATTLE - Thousands of workers here are hanging on the news from Wichita, where Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems took a direct hit from a tornado over the weekend.

In photos just released Monday afternoon, the company's 737 production line is seen, packed with plane bodies that appear undamaged.

Overall, Spirit's chief executive Jeff Turner says, things are looking up.

“We don't have any of our major production facilities that are ruined, if you will. We have several where we will make temporary work to make sure we can keep production flowing. Hour by hour, it's looking better for us,” he said.
 Analyst Michel Merluzeau with G2 Solutions has spent time at Spirit.  He shows me on a map where the tornado tore through. He is studying just what the impacts might be to the sprawling complex that was once owned by Boeing. 

“I think they dodged a pretty significant bullet.  With tornadoes you never know,” he said.

Boeing is saying little, only that they are talking with Spirit trying to figure out impact to their schedule. Many of the parts come in by train.  Just how much is still in the pipeline remains unclear.

But Merluzeau worries that parts of Spirit might not be up to speed for a month or more. 

“A critical site like Spirit in Wichita is vulnerable. The same way Renton is vulnerable in a major natural disaster,” he said.

Boeing is not saying very much in terms of just how much of a jam this puts them in - that sort of depends on the plane. Clearly, the 737, which is build at the rate of more than one a day, is the most critical. The Everett-built 777 is also working at a rapid pace.

On the other hand, the 787 may not be as critical as Boeing is already trying to get some 60 completed airplanes ready to deliver.