Remarkable changes in recent years


Spirit AeroSystems is the world’s largest aerostructures supplier, with main facilities in Wichita (KS). I visited Wichita early March and was given a guided tour of the factories. It was a tour of contrasts. In production hall two, the Boeing 737 fuselages are riveted together in much the same way as the Boeing B-29 Stratofortress was produced there during World War II. “Rosie the riveter” is replaced with a robot.

The 737 production line is equipped with robots and advanced laser aligning equipment. The line is totally flexible regarding the produced variant. A 737-700 fuselage can precede a MAX 9 fuselage followed by a 737-800. Output is presently 1.3 fuselages per day with an increase planned to 1.9 per day.

In another hall, the production is silent. The winding of the Boeing Dreamliner’s forward fuselage from rolls of tape is made with a swooshing sound. There are few people around; the machines rule. Everything is mega large; tape-layers, tools, autoclaves, the lot.

It’s the same story on the engine side, where a CFM56-7B, which powers the B737-800, went 50,000 hours or 20 million miles without a removal. Take a look at what Rolls is doing to produce single crystal turbine blades for the Trent.

A Prius and a Pinto are from different planets.

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