Boeing 737 MAX production slows down as FAA step up factory audits: report

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Production of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has declined in recent weeks as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) steps up its factory checks, industry sources told Reuters.

The FAA imposed a cap on production to 38 jets per month after its investigation into a plug door blowout on a 737 MAX aircraft in January 2024 found error on the assembly line.

However, according to Reuters, the monthly output rate is fluctuating well below this level and fell as low as single digit in late March 2024. 

Reuters reported that Boeing quoted CFO Brian West that the company was making several efforts to address quality concerns and increase confidence among stakeholders.

During a Bank of America event, West said the FAA was “deeply involved and undertaking a tougher audit than anything we’ve ever been through before.”

The US aircraft manufacturer said that efforts have been made in order to reduce the amount of “traveled work”, or planes moving down the line while jobs still needed to be fixed from earlier work stations. The effect is to slow overall production and, in turn, deliveries.

Boeing’s production slowdown is also expected to send a ripple through the airline industry, with some carriers shaving flights from their schedule or extending existing jet leases to meet demand.

Consultancy firm Cirium Ascend was quoted by Reuters to have said that Boeing flew 13 MAXs in March, following 11 in February 2024. The rate peaked around 38 a month in mid-2023.

By contrast, Airbus flew an average of 46 a month of its competing A320neos in the first quarter of 2024.

Reuters also reported that Airbus is facing its own supply constraints and is producing an average of 50 A320neo family jets a month, below the 58 originally targeted in early 2024.

However, with Boeing slowing production in order to satisfy FAA audits and complete outstanding works, Airbus is gaining a comfortable lead in the market for the most-sold category of single-aisle jets.

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