It's been a rough couple of months for workers at Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita. But Wednesday, they finally had something to celebrate. Spirit reached a milestone in their partnership with neighboring Boeing by delivering their 3,000th 737 fuselage. It's a feat accomplished just 11-and-a-half years after the plane first went into service.
Employees at the Wichita plant started building 'Next Generation' 737's in the late 1990's. Even one of the engineers working on that first plane and now this 3,000th plane couldn't imagine reaching this milestone.
"It was worth walking out here to see this 3,000th just to say I saw it," said Darrel Bishop, a Spirit engineer. "It was not even in our dreams at the time we delivered the first one that we would build this many airplanes."
To Spirit, it's worth pausing momentarily, and with cake in hand, considering how far the 737 program has come.
"I think it's great. It shows how strong of a team we've got to accomplish the things that we do every day," said 737 Integration Manager Gary Johnson. "It's a big feat to do that and put out the quality of product that we do."
The first 737's, now called the classic, entered service in 1968, but with the Next Generation models came new technology and engineering methods. That gave the plane a new life.
The Boeing 737 is considered the world's most popular and reliable commercial jet transport airplane.
"The 737 is the back bone of the Spirit company," said Jim Hans, 737 Operations Director. "It's the foundation that we continue to make improvements on and grow."
Right now, more than 2,700 Spirit employees work on the 737 program, building 31 of these fuselages every month for Boeing. It's evident those who work on the 737 have a sense of pride in their work.
"I think I can say after I go home at the end of the day, I can tell my son I did something very worthwhile," said engineer Kirk Edwards.
As for the planes for the 3,000th 737 airplane, it will go to Indian carrier Jet Lite later this year.