Spirit AeroSystems selects Lockheed Martin Aeronautics chief to replace Turner as CEO

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Spirit AeroSystems has selected the former head of Lockheed Martin's aeronautics business segment to replace departing chief executive Jeff Turner.

Larry Lawson, also previously head of Lockheed's franchise F-22 and F-35 programmes, will become president and CEO of the Wichita-based aerostructures specialist starting on 6 April, taking over a company with a bulging backlog worth $35 billion that has struggled to cope with multiple over-lapping development programmes.

"Larry met all of the board's criteria," says Bob Johnson, board chairman of Spirit. "He is a well-known and highly respected leader in the industry and has outstanding experience managing multiple premier aircraft platforms efficiently and profitably across a large-scale business."

He will take over a company that has dramatically expanded its commercial and business aviation backlog, winning work packages on a wide variety of programmes spanning Boeing, Airbus, Gulfstream and Sikorsky.

But the company appeared to stumble in 2012, taking a series of write-downs on development programmes, especially on wing programmes at the company's Tulsa, Oklahoma facility. On the other hand, the company coped well after a tornado struck its main facility in Wichita, shutting down production but never missing a shipment deadline.

"Spirit is uniquely positioned in the expanding commercial aircraft market," Lawson says.

Among his first tasks is to complete negotiations with Boeing on updated prices for Spirit's work on the 787 programme, for which it supplies the Section 41 nose and wing assemblies.

Turner announced his decision to retire in November, a month after the company acknowledged a $590 million write-down.