Boeing discovers new production issues on the 737 MAX, which might delay future deliveries.

Boeing cannot catch a break; it seems, lately. The OEM has been stuttering on various projects, which have included the 737 Max, the 787 , and the 777X, which has seen various delays in their testing schedule due to which the move to entry into service has been delayed. On the space front, their Starliner space capsule saw issues as well. Amidst all this, a new issue has been discovered on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which might affect some aircraft.

Boeing’s 737 MAX production issue

Boeing puts together aircraft parts produced by various vendors to create the final aircraft for the customer. One of their biggest suppliers is Spirit AeroSystems, which is the company that produces the fuselage of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Earlier this week, the company notified The Boeing Co. about using a “non-standard manufacturing process” to install two fittings at the vertical tail of the aircraft. Specifically, this affects the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 8 aircraft but not the MAX 9 variant.

As Per spirit Aerosystem

Spirit has notified our customer, Boeing, that we have identified a quality issue on the aft fuselage section of certain models of the 737 fuselage that Spirit builds. This is not an immediate safety of flight issue. We have processes in place to address these of types of production issues upon identification, which we are following. Spirit is working to develop an inspection and repair for the affected fuselages. We continue to coordinate closely with our customer to resolve this matter and minimize impacts while maintaining our focus on safety.

Boeing 737 Fuselage (Image Courtesy Wikipedia)

The production issue goes back to 2019, and Boeing continued to produce the MAX even during the grounding of the aircraft and Covid-19. So, since the plane was ungrounded, Boeing has already delivered 750 aircraft to customers around the globe.

The FAA issued the following statement regarding this situation,

Based on the facts and data Boeing presented, the FAA validated the company’s assessment that there is no immediate safety issue. The FAA is in close communication with Boeing and will continue to evaluate all new affected airplanes prior to delivery.

What this means for Boeing 737 MAX deliveries

Boeing intended to increase the rate of production for the aircraft, per recent comments from the OEM. However, the focus now might change to rectifying this issue, and the airframe maker might have to slow down for the time being. Affected aircraft will include all undelivered aircraft, including those on the assembly line and those waiting to be delivered, to be reworked, if needed, before delivery.

As per a statement issued by Boeing,

This is not an immediate safety of flight issue, and the in-service fleet can continue operating safely. However, the issue will likely affect a significant number of undelivered 737 MAX airplanes, both in production and in storage. We have notified the FAA of the issue and are working to conduct inspections and replace the non-conforming fittings where necessary.

Should impact Air India Express, among others

Boeing has been trying to find customers for many of their Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft, which were not sold due to Covid-19 or other reasons. For instance, Akasa Air had picked up many such airframes from Boeing, which allowed it to quickly induct 19 aircraft into its fleet within months of launch. Air India had, similarly, signed for 50 Boeing , which it intended to start inducting this year (2023). Air India was going to induct aircraft intended initially for Chinese airlines. It now seems their plans will be affected due to this issue, but hopefully only by a little.

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