Hugo Phan / KMUW

2020 has not been kind to aviation manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems. The continued grounding of the Boeing 737 Max — the company's most important program — was compounded by a near shutdown of commercial air traffic because of the pandemic. That has resulted in thousands of layoffs at Spirit since January, along with furloughs and pay cuts.

Despite the drumbeat of bad news, Spirit has consistently remained optimistic when discussing one topic: its defense programs.

Spirit says about 15% of its revenue comes from defense work. It wants to grow that number to 40%.

Hugo Phan / KMUW

Spirit AeroSystems’ first-quarter earnings were as dreary as expected.

The company said Wednesday its revenue dropped by nearly half  from roughly $2 billion to $1 billion — in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

WICHITA, Kansas — It’s a simple, tempting pitch: hands-on training tailored for specific, high-demand jobs.

It led thousands of students to enroll in Kansas technical colleges. But COVID-19 and a collapsing aviation industry undid that promise.

A Delta Airlines Boeing 777
Delta Airlines

The coronavirus pandemic is raining on just about every type of business.

For the airline industry, though, it’s a full-blown monsoon.

The major domestic carriers are losing tens of millions of dollars a day. Airline traffic has fallen to levels last seen 60 years ago as carriers cancel flights and park their planes.

Textron Aviation

Textron Aviation in Wichita says it is furloughing “most" of its U.S.-based staff for four weeks beginning Monday.


Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the scene of an explosion Friday at the Textron Aviation plant in east Wichita.

Officials say 15 people were injured – one critically – when a nitrogen line ruptured, leading to the explosion. The blast heavily damaged the Plant 3 building at the former Beechcraft plant, near Central and Webb.

Plant 3 houses composite manufacturing and experimental aircraft fabrication, according to Textron Aviation spokeswoman Stephanie Harder.

Wilco737 / Flickr Creative Commons

Kansas may help pay workers at Spirit AeroSystems if the grounded Boeing 737 Max doesn't return to the sky soon, Gov. Laura Kelly said.

Kelly said she talked with Spirit CEO Tom Gentile on Tuesday, one day after Boeing announced that it was temporarily halting production of the 737 Max as it struggles to get approval from regulators to put the plane back in service.

Spirit AeroSystems reported strong second-quarter earnings Wednesday, despite Boeing’s continuing problems with the 737 Max.

Spirit says revenue was $2 billion, up 10 percent year over year in the second quarter, and earnings per share were up 23 percent. Both figures exceeded Wall Street expectations.

Boeing is Spirit’s largest customer, and the 737 makes up the bulk of work at Spirit’s plant in south Wichita. Boeing reported a second-quarter loss of nearly $3 billion dollars last week, its worst quarter ever.

Ascha Lee

Spirit AeroSystems announced Wednesday it will add 1,400 new jobs over the course of the next year.


The aviation company is the largest employer in Wichita. Last year, Spirit announced it would add 1,000 jobs in the next two years, which already has done.


Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer and Gov.-elect Laura Kelly attended the news conference where Spirit president and CEO Tom Gentile made the announcement.


Textron Aviation

Textron Aviation and NetJets have reached a purchase agreement for as many as 325 new jets.

Longtime Textron Aviation partner NetJets says it has reached a deal to become the first company to buy Cessna’s new Citation Hemisphere large business jet. The deal is an important milestone for a plane that has suffered delays in development due to problems with its new engine from French supplier Safran.