Kansas Machinists Dig Out from Tornado Damage

Several Wichita, KS aircraft plants sustained damage last week when tornadoes touched down in the area known as “Tornado Alley.” Buildings at Spirit AeroSystems sustained significant damage, while Boeing, Hawker Beechcraft and Cessna Pawnee Division were also damaged. Hourly workers at all the companies are represented by IAM District 70.

The tornadoes hit on Saturday night, with only skeleton crews on duty at the time. There were no injuries at any of the facilities. The area was on high alert following earlier predictions from the National Weather Service that conditions were ripe for an outbreak of tornadoes.

Following the storms, Spirit AeroSystems suspended operations while IAM maintenance crews assessed damage and began the clean-up. District 70 DBR Steve Rooney stressed that the main goal was to get everyone back to work, but safety is the priority. “Everyone wants to get back on the job, but they’ve got to make sure the structures are safe,” said Rooney.

Spirit is a key supplier for the Boeing 737 and other products. “We have a busy delivery schedule, and everyone is ready to get back to work and get caught up,” said Rooney.

Workers at Boeing Wichita are back at work, but work was suspended Monday and Tuesday for cleanup. Both Hawker Beechcraft and Cessna resumed schedules as usual on Monday.

Rooney is still getting information on IAM members affected by the storms. “We have some members in our locals whose homes took damage,” said Rooney. “We’re going to make sure they get the help they need.”

IAM members are also volunteering around town in cleanup efforts, with United Way AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison Mario Cervantes organizing volunteers.

“Wichita is in the middle of Tornado Alley,” said Rooney. “Severe weather is part of our lives, and we’re used to cleaning up, rebuilding and moving forward. Kansans are tough people, and our Kansas Machinists are the toughest of the lot.”