Spirit AeroSystems Inc., the world's largest independent supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components, celebrated a major milestone since winning a contract with Airbus in May 2008. The company shipped the first production composite center fuselage panels for the Airbus A350 XWB program out of its Kinston, N.C. facility on Saturday, October 22. The panels arrived on Monday in Saint-Nazaire, France, where final upper shell assembly work will be completed.
The Section 15 fuselage panels manufactured by Spirit AeroSystems consist of the center composite upper and forward lower shells. In addition to manufacturing the center fuselage panels, the company is also manufacturing the spar for the A350 XWB in North Carolina.
"Our North Carolina team has worked hard to achieve this important milestone," said Dan Wheeler, vice president-general manager, North Carolina business unit. "With help from our customer, we have successfully integrated with Airbus methods, tools, processes and systems. Shipment of these composite fuselage panels represents a significant achievement for Spirit employees as we work with Airbus to meet all their requirements and delivery schedules for the pre-final assembly phase."
Read more: Spirit AeroSystems press release
Specialized training for a skilled workforce.
Spirit AeroSystems opened its 500,000-square-foot production facility at the N.C. Global TransPark in Kinston in July 2010 to accommodate the Airbus orders. The plant currently employs 263 people, with additional employment expansion expected. Ken Evans, corporate communications for Spirit AeroSystems, noted that the company worked closely with Lenoir Community College to train the workforce and get the plant up and running.
The customized program at Lenoir Community College was created to produce a skilled aerospace workforce as well as develop and support the aviation culture in North Carolina. Working closely with officials at Spirit AeroSystems, the college built a comprehensive aviation and composite manufacturing program that includes a four-hour online introductory course, a 120-hour Aerospace Manufacturing Readiness Program, a two-year Aerostructure Manufacturing and Repair Technology degree program, continuing education and career readiness certification.
“Spirit AeroSystems wanted a workforce with specific experience,” said Bobby Merritt, director of industry training at Lenoir Community College. “We partnered with the Employment Security Commission, Workforce Development Board and JobLink Center to create a questionnaire to screen applicants.” What resulted was an application and referral process for prospective aerospace students, directing them to the appropriate education program. For Spirit AeroSystems, the result was a highly qualified and skilled staff in aerospace and composite manufacturing as well as an equally prepared pool of potential applicants for future expansion.
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