WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit Aerosystems will close its plant in McAlester, Oklahoma, next year, the company’s president said Thursday.
About 175 people work at the Oklahoma plant, where employment has already dropped 50% this year, Spirit president Tom Gentile said in a message to employees. Work at the McAlester plant will be transferred to Wichita and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Gentile said a continued drop in commercial aviation because of the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing grounding of the 737 Max airplane led to the closure, The Wichita Eagle reported. He said Wichita-based Spirit as more production capacity than it needs because of reduced demand for new airplanes.
“In a matter of months, the production rates across all our Boeing and Airbus work packages were reduced as air travel dramatically fell,” Gentile wrote in his message. “Unfortunately, we now see a protracted downturn in the commercial aviation market that requires actions to prepare Spirit to navigate the new business realities.”
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the 737 Max in March 2019 after two deadly crashes. Spirit AeroSystems manufactures much of the structure on the 737 Max for Boeing, which told Spirit to halt production on the plane in January. That led to 2,800 layoffs in Wichita, followed by more reductions in McAlster and Tulsa.