Boeing has confirmed that a recent supplier issue has affected the production of the 737 MAX and will impact deliveries in the coming months.
While addressing the company’s shareholders during the Annual Shareholders Meeting held on April 18, 2023, David Calhoun, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Boeing, said that the issue, which first came to light on April 13, 2023, was revealed when Spirit AeroSystems, a Tier 1 supplier for Boeing and Airbus, notified the manufacturer that “a non-standard manufacturing process was used on two fittings in the aft fuselage section of certain 737 airplanes”.
Spirit AeroSystems, the Wichita, Kansas-based fuselage supplier for the 737 program, reportedly informed the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) about the problem on April 12, 2023.
Calhoun noted that once the supplier informed Boeing about the issue, it immediately informed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Calhoun said that the focus was on making a safety-based decision, but the issue was “not a safety of flight concern and the in-service fleet can continue to operate safely”.
“We are assessing the near-term delivery impact and working closely with our customers. Unaffected airplanes will continue to deliver. And for those impacted, keep in mind that the inspection and rework hours are being bounded, and this is an airplane-by-airplane evaluation,” Calhoun said.
According to Calhoun, while the issue will not change the planned production rate increases scheduled for 2025 or 2026, the estimated delivery delays will remove “approximately 9,000 seats from our customers’ summer schedules”. He also issued an apology to customers “for the impact on those fleets”.
The non-standard fitting procedure was used on certain Boeing 737 MAX-7s, MAX-8s, MAX-8-200s, and the P-8 Poseidon, a military aircraft based on the 737 NextGeneration (NG). The 737 MAX-9 was not affected. According to the OEM’s 737 MAX product page, an average two-class cabin configuration on the 737 MAX-8 seats between 162 and 178 passengers, while the MAX-8-200, the high-density configuration of the aircraft, seats 210 passengers.
The 737 MAX-7 and MAX-10 are yet to be certified to fly by the FAA.
According to ch-aviation.com data, Boeing built 57 737 MAX-8 aircraft between January 1, 2023, and April 19, 2023, while it delivered 52 aircraft of the type during the same period. However, the non-standard manufacturing procedure was used for four years, meaning that, potentially, the 879 737 MAX-8s built by Boeing between January 1, 2019, and April 14, 2023, could be affected by the issue.
Still, Calhoun said he was “actually quite proud of the progress our team has made on the 737 MAX over the last several years”.
The executive added that “not too long ago” Boeing had more than 400 737 MAX aircraft sitting in storage due to the grounding of the type, but now there “are currently over 1,000 737 MAX airplanes flying in the fleet”.
He also referenced China bringing back aircraft of the type, stating that “45 of the 95 737 MAX airplanes in China are now in service”.
He concluded: “With regards to future deliveries, we’ve recently seen encouraging progress with the Civil Aviation Administration of China releasing the 737 Aircraft Evaluation Report, which is an important step in that process. Ultimately, our customers will determine the timing of when they are ready to take delivery of their airplanes, we’ll be there to support them.”
Overall, Boeing delivered 378 737s in 2022, while the OEM handed over 111 737 MAXs in Q1 2023.