could buy facility in Saint Nazaire, France, to gain better control of the Airbus supply chain, company sources tells Aviation Week.
According to the sources, Airbus has not made a final decision, but they say it is likely the purchase will occur because the aircraft builder is concerned that continuing production issues in Saint Nazaire could threaten the A350 production ramp-up and delivery schedule.
Airbus has sent teams of engineers to work with Spirit to resolve the issues but has concluded that full control is necessary, the sources add.
Neither Airbus nor Spirit acknowledges the possible sale, with Airbus simply saying that it “works constantly with all of its suppliers, offering them support to avoid any critical delay on the A350program. The discussions with Spirit fit in this context.”
Spirit, meanwhile, says, “We don’t speculate on any business transactions that have not been announced, and we don’t have anything to announce at this time. Spirit is working closely with our customers to deliver on our commitments and make the A350 XWB successful.”
Spirit assembles the center fuselage of the A350, designated Section 15. Composite fuselage panels are built in Spirit’s factory in Kinston, N.C., and shipped to Saint Nazaire.
The U.S. supplier was awarded the A350 contract in May 2008 as part of Airbus’s efforts to outsource more of its subassembly work to international suppliers.
Spirit delivered the first A350 Section 15 in January 2012 but has struggled with the project since then. It is understood to have been a major factor for delays in the A350 program.
Late last year, Spirit CEO Jeff Turner announced his resignation because of the company’s production issues. He still holds the position while Spirit seeks a replacement.
Airbus has tried to avoid bringing outsourced work in-house, but in 2011 purchased German supplier PWF Aerospace to avert that company’s impending bankruptcy.