April 17, 2012 in Business

Tornado damage puts aircraft industry on hold

Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Damage is evident to a hangar at an aircraft plant after it took a direct hit, officials said, when a tornado swept through southeast Wichita, Kan., Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tornado damage in Kansas’ aircraft manufacturing hub could have a ripple effect on the industry, analysts warned Monday, even as airplane makers Boeing and Hawker Beechcraft and nearby parts maker Spirit AeroSystems were still tallying losses.

All three companies were hit by a tornado Saturday, when a storm system spawned dozens of tornadoes in the Great Plains. The twister that tore through the Wichita, Kan., area, where the companies are located, packed winds of 136 to 165 miles per hour.

Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. was struck first and suffered the most damage. Most of the 155 buildings on its 11 million-square-foot campus were damaged, a handful substantially, spokeswoman Debbie Gann said. Operations are shut down at least through today, she said.

Jason Gursky, an aerospace analyst for San Francisco-based Citigroup Global Markets, said the destruction at the facility is a “huge deal,” noting that it makes engine covers and fuselage and nose sections for Boeing Co.

After roaring through Spirit AeroSystems’ campus, the tornado hit Boeing’s nearby facilities. Then it struck McConnell Air Force Base and Hawker Beechcraft.

Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Johnson-Jones said there was damage to at least seven of Boeing’s 97 buildings and work was suspended until Wednesday.

Hawker Beechcraft reported no damage to aircraft and limited and isolated damage to the roof of its manufacturing facility.

Gursky said there is no precedent for Wichita’s aircraft industry being hit so hard. “The supply chain would have to slow down, and that is going to affect pretty much anybody who feeds into Boeing,” Gursky said. “I’ve got to imagine that there aren’t going to be a lot of planes rolling off the lines this week.”

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