Machinists at Spirit vote to end strike; will return to work on July 5

Machinists Union members in Wichita, KS, wait in line to vote on a second contract offer from Spirit AeroSystems Thursday. The offer was approved with a 63% yes vote. Spirit will resume production of critical Boeing aircraft components on July 5./International Association of Machinists photo

By Bryan Corliss 

June 30, 2023, © Leeham News – Machinists Union members working for Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, KS, will return to work on July 5, after ratifying a new four-year contract with the company.

Some 63% of Local 839 members voted in favor of the contract on Thursday, union officials said. Spirit’s first offer was rejected by 79% of union members voting. 

“This membership vote by the majority of 63% is a move in the right direction for our local,” said Cornell Beard, the president of IAM District 70, the parent organization of Local 839. “Let’s work hard to set ourselves up for the big win in four years too.”

In a statement, Spirit leadership welcomed the yes vote, and said they would “closely coordinate” with suppliers and customers as the company restarts production.

Workers will start today preparing for the production restart after the Fourth of July holiday, the company said. The plant has been closed since June 22, the day after Local 839 members rejected the first offer.

  • Strike closes plant for less than two weeks
  • Workers get 9.5% raise this year, plus bonus
  • Second offer ‘what we worked for’

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 19. Supersonic drag

By Bjorn Fehrm

June 30, 2023, ©. Leeham News: In our discussions about the drag of an airliner, we now cover the most complex drag type, Wave drag, or the drag created when the air goes from subsonic to supersonic flow.

We will focus on the physical understanding of what’s happening as the math behind the drag calculation is complex.

Figure 1. The Concord is designed for low Wave drag. Source: BAC and Aerospatiale.

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Pontifications: A330neo, still struggling, nears 300 sales

By Scott Hamilton

June 27, 2023, © Leeham News: Airbus inked a memorandum of understanding with lessor Avolon for 20 A330-900s at last week’s Paris Air Show. When converted to a firm contract, this will bring the -900 order book to 299. Another 12 of the short, longer-range A330-800 make the total 309.

This compares with 664 A330-200s, 784 A330-300s and 38 A330-200Fs. The A330ceo is one of Airbus’ best-setting widebody airliners. The entire A330ceo and neo families are Airbus’ best-selling widebody, followed by the A350 family. The original A300/A310 family is third.

However, the A330neo has struggled in the market. First offered in 2014, it was the last of the new generation twin aisle airplanes up to that point. Boeing’s 787 and the A350 preceded it. Through May, 2,096 gross orders were placed for the 787. Nearly 600 remain in the backlog.

Why hasn’t the A330neo done better? In an interview with LNA at the air show, Christian Scherer, Airbus’ chief commercial officer, said there were two factors.

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Analysis: What went wrong in Wichita for Spirit and IAM

Striking members of Machinists Union Local Lodge 839 outside the Spirit AeroSystems plant in Wichita, Kans./Photo by The Wichita Eagle

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By Bryan Corliss

UPDATE: The two sides will continue talks with a federal mediator on Monday. In a statement, Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile said the negotiating teams “have been working hard and making good progress.”

“We will continue discussions this week and remain committed to a timely resolution on a fair and competitive contract that addresses the priorities of our employees and other stakeholders,” he said.

Local 839 negotiators told their members that “with the mediator’s help, we are progressing toward getting another offer to the membership for consideration.”

June 26, 2023, © Leeham News –
Strikers in Wichita broiled under a hot summer sun this weekend, as the International Association of Machinists’ strike against Spirit AeroSystems got under way.

The good news, for everyone who’s watching in the North American aerospace industry, is that the two sides resumed talks Saturday, with the help of a U.S. federal mediator.

This walk-out caught a lot of us by surprise. Insiders I talked with before the vote didn’t expect a strike. Equity analysts confidently projected the risk of strike as “very low.” Spirit itself must have been confident, because it sent much of its senior leadership team to Paris for the air show.

So what went wrong? Clearly both Spirit management and the union’s negotiating team misread the mood, and badly.

We took a deep dive into what workers are saying on social media about the contract. As we’ve noted in the past, social media posts aren’t the same as scientific surveys, but they do give some insight into the mood in Wichita.

And what they reveal is that there was a lot of frustration around some specific issues, which was exacerbated by the fact that IAM Local Lodge 839 had been locked into its recently expired contract for 13 years, during which pay and benefits stayed the same inside the factory, while literally the whole world changed outside it.

  • Workers didn’t like many contract specifics
  • No way to predict how long strike will last

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Spirit AeroSystems and Machinists Union return to negotiations Saturday

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By Bryan Corliss

June 23, 2023, © Leeham News — Negotiators for Spirit AerosSystems and International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 839 will resume negotiations Saturday, in hopes of reaching an agreement that would resolve a strike set to begin just after midnight tonight.

A Wichita Eagle photo of orange security fencing up around the Spirit AeroSystems plant in Wichita, Kan.

The meetings, which will include a federal mediator, will start about 10 hours after the walkout begins.

The strike, involving some 6,000 union-represented hourly workers at Spirit’s Wichita plant, threatens significant disruption to the wider aerospace industry — particularly at Boeing. The Wichita plant produces 70% of 737 aerostructures, along with the forward sections of all Boeing commercial jets.

It comes after workers rejected a proposed four-year deal on Wednesday, with 79% voting no and 85% voting to strike.

  • Company: Two sides have been talking
  • Worker: ‘Feathers on a dog don’t make it a chicken’

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 18. Minor drags

By Bjorn Fehrm

June 23, 2023, ©. Leeham News: In our series about technologies that influence the efficiency of a new generation of airliners, we have covered the dominant drag of an airliner, air friction drag, and the second largest drag, induced drag, and what can be done about them. Now we look at Pressure drag and Interference drag.

We will finish with Transonic drag next week, which requires a full Corner to explain well.

Figure 1. The drag types that affect our airliners. Source: Leeham Co.

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Paris Day Four: Air show winds down as Spirit strike looms over industry

By Bryan Corliss

June 22, 2023, © Leeham News – The business portion of the Paris Air Show wound down today, with no new orders and news of a looming strike in Kansas that will soon grind Boeing aircraft production to a halt. 

It was a stark contrast to the high pre-show expectations. Some analysts were projecting we’d see between 2,000 and 3,000 new aircraft ordered this week in Paris. By our count, there were 1,084 – a sizable haul no doubt. However, 970 of those came from IndiGo and Air India, who had telegraphed their plans to place those orders before the show, and used Le Bourget as a backdrop for signing the papers. Read more

Paris Day Three: Boeing gets small orders; Airbus talks hydrogen and hiring

By Bryan Corliss

June 21, 2023, © Leeham News – After the flurry of news surrounding the blockbuster orders from IndiGo and Air India earlier in the week, Wednesday’s Paris Air Show news was relatively subdued, with Boeing announcing a handful of smaller orders from airlines and leasing companies.

Airbus had announcements of an MOU for a potential widebody order, successful trials of a hydrogen-fuel concept, an update on global hiring – and the winner of a design-the-livery content for its proposed A350F cargo jet.

We’ll need to see a major flurry of orders on Thursday, if we’re to get to the 2,000-plus orders some analysts projected for this year’s air show.

  • Indian start up adds 737s
  • Air Lease Corp adds 787s
  • Airbus halfway to 2023 hiring goal
  • First A350F will look like a packing tube

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Boeing, GE optimistic for return to normalcy with China

By Scott Hamilton

Larry Culp, CEO of GE Aerospace. Credit: GE.

June 20, 2023, © Leeham News: Relations between the US and China remained strained, beginning with the Trump Administration’s trade war initiated in 2017—which continues under the Biden Administration.

The strain has been exacerbated by China’s tilt toward Russia during the Russian-Ukraine war. Except for a brief meeting at this year’s G7 meeting between President Xi and President Biden, there has been little in the way of top-level diplomatic contact until this week. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Xi this week, leading to optimism by Boeing and GE Aerospace that relations between the US and China may be thawing.

During executive media briefings surrounding this week’s Paris Air Show, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal and GE Aerospace CEO Larry Culp gave their outlooks about the near-term future.

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Pontifications: Only time will tell

By Scott Hamilton

June 20, 2023, © Leeham News: Here at the Paris Air Show in what is the first normalized show after the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of excitement is almost tangible.

There are predictions by some that when this week is over, more than 2,000 commercial airplane orders could be announced. This would match the heyday of orders in the 2010 decade.

Clearly, there is pent-up demand for new airplanes. Aging aircraft are part of the reason. A push toward more fuel efficient, and therefore more environmentally friendly airplanes is another reason. Full order positions, dating to 2026 for the Boeing 737 and to 2029 for the Airbus A320 is prompting some orders to “get in line.” Even widebody aircraft delivery slots are sold out for the next several years. So is the Airbus A220.

Embraer pulls up the rear with its E-Jet E2. Sales are hampered because the E-Jet family serves a shrinking market, the regional airlines. But Embraer, too, has had a flurry of recent orders.

Airbus and Boeing are talking openly about the next new airplane—Boeing more openly than Airbus. Their confidence is clear.

Alternative energy also takes a front seat at the show. Fuels, batteries, UAMs, eVTOLs, and more vie for attention.

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