Boeing is again in trouble. It says it’ll be forced to complete work on more than 50 undelivered 737 MAX jets, impacting short- to medium-term deliveries to some customers.
A new problem has emerged following the identification of two mis-drilled holes on some aircraft fuselages by Spirit AeroSystems, a key supplier recently under fire.
Boeing says that an employee at Spirit alerted management, and immediate action was undertaken to investigate the problem and inform Boeing and other key companies to ensure a fix was formulated.
Boeing says the most recent finding will not directly impact the immediate safety of 737 jets in daily operations. Still, a rework will need to be completed on undelivered aircraft types.
Quality Problem Again
Finding flaws in the fuselage of the aircraft is yet another issue that the plane maker couldn’t afford to happen for its image and more.
However, some analysts argue that Spirit AeroSystems’ identification of an issue highlights that further oversight into production practices is working and that appropriate action can be taken.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and several leading Boeing customers have launched thorough investigations into the plane maker and its suppliers over production practices.
This thorough review is a key means to understand better why so many quality escapes have occurred unnoticed until an accident occurs.
Customers Frustrations Increase
While impacting Boeing’s reputation from the flying public’s perspective, such quality problems are increasing customers’ frustrations.
United Airlines has said that the Alaska Airlines door blowout incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Following persistent 737-10 certification delays, they’ll make a fleet plan without the aircraft type.
These reports identifying Scott Kirby, the United CEO’s stance, also indicated that the major U.S. airline was already in early conversations with Airbus over potentially acquiring further Airbus A321neo family jets to mitigate the losses felt over 737-10 delays.
Alaska Airlines says the door blowout incident should’ve never happened but is committed to sticking with Boeing for its mainline fleet. A stance that comes months after they retired their brand new Airbus aircraft taken on through a Virgin America merger.
Boeing 737 MAX Jets Continue Returning To Service
Despite much focus on the latest quality problem, airlines are making steady steps toward ungrounding their 737-9 jets parked following the FAA’s Emergency Airworthiness Directive.
As part of the ungrounding process, the FAA has said that Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have inspected and returned 94% of their fleet to service.
The ungrounding, officially lifted on January 24, didn’t mean the aircraft could automatically all return to service, but formally allowed airlines to inspect their aircraft and, once deemed fit, return them to flying with customers onboard.
At the height of the grounding, Alaska Airlines was forced to cancel up to 150 flights per day, and the 737-9 accounted for 20% of its active fleet.
The 737-9 at United Airlines represents around 8% of their fleet. At the same time, they expect to see a financial hit from the grounding. In most cases, the airline was fortunate for other aircraft in its fleet to cover for the lost capacity.
New Delays For Boeing
Due to the recent fuselage problems, delivery delays on around 50 aircraft are expected.
The latest delay is set to impact customers. However, it also comes following the FAA’s halt of any plans Boeing had to increase production of its MAX series as it conducts an investigation.
Boeing agreed that increasing production would be inappropriate as investigations continue into the plane maker’s practices. However, because of this inability to increase production rates on the type, customers will likely experience delays to their aircraft.
Delays to short-term aircraft deliveries from the MAX series have become the newest focus. However, Boeing still has two variants from the series yet to be certified.
Additionally, there’s no firm timeline for when these aircraft will eventually enter service due to the persistent quality troubles hurting the plane maker and critical suppliers.
Southwest has said it will wait until 2027 for the 737-7 to be certified; however, it has adjusted aircraft orders and switched the -7 to already certified types.
Ryanair, meanwhile, has said that while the delays are frustrating, they’ll purchase any cancelled 737-10 orders from U.S. customers if the price is right. They see these planes as the best on the market but are simply waiting for them to finally enter service, with the risk of that slipping to 2026.