Boeing Co. has announced that it will be pausing deliveries of some of its 737 Max jets due to a manufacturing issue that has been discovered. This issue does not affect the safety of the planes in the air, the company has said. The planemaker was notified of the issue by Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., which is responsible for assembling most of the 737’s aluminum frame. The problem concerns two of the eight fittings that attach the jet’s vertical tail to the rear end of its fuselage and affects a portion of the 737 jets built since 2019. Boeing has stated that the issue will likely impact a significant number of undelivered aircraft as well as those stored at the company. As a result, the company expects deliveries to decline in the near-term as it inspects affected aircraft.
Boeing’s stock fell by as much as 4.7% in late trading after the announcement, having risen by 0.6% to $213.59 at the close in New York. Spirit AeroSystems also dropped by more than 8%. This disruption is a setback for Boeing just as it was regaining its footing following years of turmoil caused by the pandemic and a global grounding of the Max. The planemaker had been briefing customers on plans to increase production rates of the Max, Bloomberg reported last week. Days later, Boeing reported a surge in quarterly deliveries that outpaced rival Airbus SE for the first time in about five years. It is too soon to tell if the quality flaw will affect Boeing’s plans to speed up 737 production. The planemaker is working to learn the extent of the problem and what’s required to address it, according to the company.
The issue involves Boeing’s best-selling 737 Max 8, Max 7, a high-density version, along with a militarised 737 known as the P-8. Not every jet is affected. Spirit AeroSystems and Boeing have identified the production numbers of the planes with the problematic fittings. “We have processes in place to address these types of production issues upon identification, which we are following,” Spirit said in a statement. “Spirit is working to develop an inspection and repair for the affected fuselages.” The inspections will take place in an accessible area of the structure. That means any rework is likely to be far less disruptive than Boeing’s repairs to address structural imperfections with the 787 Dreamliner, the company said. Deliveries of those planes were halted for more than a year, starting in mid-2021, over tiny manufacturing flaws in the jet’s carbon-composite frame. In some instances, they could only be reached by ripping out aircraft cabins. Boeing temporarily paused Dreamliner deliveries again earlier this year after learning of a documentation issue with a fuselage component.
Analysts expect Boeing officials to provide updates on the company’s efforts to stabilize 737 and 787 production at its April 18 annual meeting and first-quarter earnings report on April 26. The extent of the impact of this manufacturing issue on the company’s production and deliveries remains to be seen, but it is clear that it has caused a significant disruption to Boeing’s operations. The company will need to take swift action to address the problem and minimize any potential impact on its customers and the wider aviation industry.