Boeing has warned several 737 MAX customers that delivery delays could result following the discovery of further manufacturing faults on the type’s production line in Renton, Washington. The delays could affect up to 50 aircraft already in the stages of final assembly at the plant, according to the beleaguered manufacturer.
In a letter sent to company staff on February 5, 2024, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal advised that a worker at Spirit AeroSystems, a third-party supplier had discovered mis-drilled holes in fuselage sections, based in Wichita, Kansas, makes a large part of the fuselages on Boeing MAX planes. Spirit AeroSystems also manufactures door plugs that feature on certain 737 MAX 9 planes – one of which blew out of an Alaska Airlines aircraft in early January 2024.
According to Boeing, the error was discovered by an employee of Spirit AeroSystems who notified his manager that two holes might not have been drilled according to specifications. Subsequent checks found that the defect was identified in 22 out of 47 fuselages inspected across Boeing and Spirit’s production systems.
“While this potential condition is not an immediate safety issue and all 737s can continue operating safely, we currently believe we will have to perform rework on about 50 undelivered planes,” stated Deal’s letter to employees that was also shared with the media, in the interests of full disclosure.
Both Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems are under intense scrutiny over the quality of their work following the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 incident on January 5.2024. The aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing when a panel called a door plug blew out of the side of the plane shortly after take-off from Portland, Oregon. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is continuing to investigate the incident.
While the MAX 9 has since been cleared to re-enter service, Boeing said on January 30, 2024, that it was withdrawing a request for a safety exemption to certify the 737 MAX 7 variant. Boeing asked federal regulators late last year to allow delivery of its 737 MAX 7 aircraft to customers even though it does not meet a safety standard designed to prevent part of the engine housing from overheating and having the potential to detach during flight.
Meanwhile, United Airlines, which has an outstanding order for 277 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft plus another 200 options has been widely rumored to be considering canceling its order in favor of more Airbus A320 family aircraft.
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