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After engine overheating row, now Boeing faces new issue around 737 MAX production

IFM_Boeing 737 MAX
Boeing anticipates delays in its aircraft deliveries in the short term, due to the new crisis, as the venture now assesses the potential impact on its target of delivering a minimum of 400 737s in 2023

United States-based aviation giant Boeing has reportedly identified a fresh quality concern within its 737 MAX narrow-body aircraft, involving supplier Spirit AeroSystems. The latest issue revolves around “improperly drilled holes” in the aft pressure bulkhead, according to the planemaker’s statement.

Boeing now anticipates delays in its aircraft deliveries in the short term, due to the new crisis, as the venture now assesses the potential impact on its target of delivering a minimum of 400 737s in 2023.

Spirit has clarified that not all 737 fuselages are impacted by the newly identified issue of “elongated” holes in the aft pressure bulkhead, as the company employs multiple suppliers for this particular component.

The company, however, believed that this problem would not significantly affect its delivery projections for the year.

“At present, Boeing’s assessment indicates that the defect primarily pertains to a specific segment of the MAX 8 model, though the company is investigating the potential impact on older 737 Next Generation jets as well. The extent of necessary corrections and the duration of rework will vary depending on the individual aircraft’s condition,” the aviation giant stated while affirming that it will continue to deliver unaffected 737s.

Spirit has reportedly taken steps to rectify the problem by implementing changes to its manufacturing processes.

While the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was made aware of the matter, it has determined that the issue does not compromise flight safety.

Talking about 737MAX’s troubles, the FAA, in August 2023, issued a warning regarding potential overheating problems in certain CFM engines that power the jetliner. Boeing, in its reply, indicated devising measures to address this issue.

“This concern arises from a report that suggests prolonged use of the engine anti-ice (EAI) system in dry air conditions for over five minutes, under certain environmental and operational circumstances, might cause the engine inlet inner barrel to overheat beyond its design limits. This could lead to the failure of the engine inlet inner barrel and substantial damage to the engine inlet cowl,” FAA stated back then, while warning that the problem could lead to the detachment of the inlet and potential failure of the fan cowl, resulting in separation from the aircraft.

Meanwhile, the row around “improperly drilled holes in the aft pressure bulkhead” ended up costing Boeing dearly in the stock market, as the venture’s stocks saw a decline of 2.7% on August 24, while Spirit’s shares experienced a 6.1% drop in after-hours trading on the same day.

Boeing has a backlog of 4,196 Max planes, according to the tally mentioned on its website, with the current delivery schedule of the planes stretching to the second half of the decade.

If the latest problem requires a lengthy troubleshooting time from the American planemaker, it will serve as a setback for the airlines hitting top gears on their fleet expansion plans, amid the growing travel demand. Boeing’s plan to improve cash flow can also be affected due to this, since airlines pay the bulk of a plane’s price upon delivery.

“It doesn’t sound like it is going to be a terribly invasive fix, but on the other hand I think everyone’s a bit spooked because of recent experience,” said Richard Aboulafia, managing director of AeroDynamics Advisory, while interacting with CNBC.

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