Problems are piling up for Boeing. The plane maker has revealed that last Thursday an employee at its supplier Spirit AeroSystems alerted his boss that two holes in the fuselage of 737 Max aircraft had not been drilled exactly according to Boeing’s requirements. The supplier passed it on to the manufacturer, which will have to do additional work on about 50 planes, which may delay some deliveries.
“While this potential issue is not an immediate flight safety issue and all 737s can continue to operate safely, we currently believe we will need to perform repair work on approximately 50 undelivered aircraft,” said Stan Deal, president and CEO. of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, the group’s commercial aircraft division, in a message made public by the company.
Both Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems shares opened lower this Monday after Boeing’s communication this Sunday. “Although this issue could delay some 737 deliveries in the short term, this is the only course of action given our commitment to delivering perfect aircraft every time. The days we are reserving in the 737 program will give our teams time to complete inspections and, if necessary, make any necessary touch-ups,” Deal adds in his statement.
In his message, the Boeing executive also points out that the company has “instructed a major supplier to withhold shipments until all work has been completed according to specifications.” “Although this delay in shipments will affect our production schedule, it will improve overall quality and stability,” he adds, without clarifying which supplier it is.
Boeing has been in crisis mode since a panel covering a gap that in other configurations is used as an emergency door detached from an Alaska Airlines plane, leaving a hole in the fuselage in mid-flight. After proceeding to the immobilization of the vast majority of the aircraft of the 737 Max 9 model, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, for its acronym in English) opened a formal investigation against the company and then announced that it was subjecting the production process of Boeing, in a serious blow to the company.
The company is taking steps to strengthen quality in the 737 program, including additional inspections at its factory and at major suppliers and greater oversight by airlines. It also decided to halt 737 production for a day to refocus its employees on quality. Additionally, Boeing has appointed an outside expert to conduct an in-depth independent evaluation of the quality management system.
The 737 program continues to deliver aircraft and its production rate is now 38 per month, although it may be slowed in the short term by the new incident. The US aviation authority, the FAA, has limited production of the 737 to current levels until quality improves and all Boeing factories are subject to closer oversight.
Boeing closed last year with losses of 2,222 million dollars (about 2,050 million euros). Although these are red numbers, their amount is less than half of the $4,935 million in losses from the previous year. For Boeing it is its fifth consecutive year of losses. Since the catastrophic accidents of the 737 Max in 2018, it has not raised its head and when it seemed ready, the new incident has occurred, although much less serious than those. The company already suffered losses of 636 million in 2019, which worsened to the record of 11,873 million dollars in 2020. With the results of 2023, it has lost about 23,800 million dollars in five years.
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