Spirit rolls out new tanker fuselage a day after announcing layoffs

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WICHITA, Kansas – The day after Spirit AeroSystems announced hundreds of layoffs, the company is having a big roll out for a new product.

The first forward fuselage section of the new KC-46A tanker is being shipped.

The KC-46A is essentially a flying gas can for the Air Force.

The tanker is replacing the aging fleet of KC-135R fuel tankers used by the Air Force for five decades.

The new Spirit fuselage section will now be shipped to Everett, Washington for final assembly at a Boeing facility.

“So I’m super excited that we’ve actually entered manufacturing at the factory at Everett,” says Major General John Thompson of the Air Force. “These parts are in route there and at this time next year we’ll spit a couple of them out the end of the factory.”

Spirit has a contract to build 179 of the forward fuselage sections that will be part of the KC-46A tankers.

And it’s a tanker that will be based in Wichita at McConnell Air Force Base.

The contract with the Air Force is providing hundreds of jobs, and politicians were on hand at the Spirit event Friday to herald the job stability news.

“It means hundreds of jobs here in Kansas for a long time. It’s a project that’s going to be going on for years and years. And it’s important to the Kansas economy. It gives increased capacity to the 767 line at the same time, serving Americans and our America national security needs as well,” said Congressman Mike Pompeo.

Along with the Air Force brass and politicians, Spirit and Boeing leaders were on hand to thank the workers.

“We’re also incredibly thankful to the employees of Spirit who made this happen,” said Spirit CEO John Lawson.

The first flight for the new tanker will be a year and a half from now with delivery to the Air Force.

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