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Boeing 737 MAX Program Faces New Supplier Defect Woes


  • Boeing has identified a manufacturing issue involving supplier Spirit AeroSystems, resulting in improperly drilled holes on certain models of the 737 MAX and 737 NG military derivative.
  • Spirit AeroSystems has acknowledged the problem and made changes to its manufacturing process to address it.
  • The issue could potentially lead to short-term delays in the 737 MAX program and Boeing is assessing its impact on meeting its annual delivery target.

Boeing has identified a new manufacturing issue involving its supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, which has led to improperly drilled holes on the aft pressure bulkhead of certain models of the 737 MAX and 737 NG military derivative, the P-8 Poseidon, fuselage.

The supplier acknowledged the quality problem and said that it had implemented changes to its manufacturing process to address this issue. In a separate statement, Spirit AeroSystems said that only “some units were affected” and added:

“We are working closely with our customer to address any impacted units within the production system and address any needed rework. Based upon what we know now, we believe there will not be a material impact to our delivery range for the year related to this issue.”

Boeing 737 MAX jets parked at Renton airport

Photo: Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock

Boeing’s key supplier said that there is no immediate safety of flight concern associated with this issue for the 737 fleet and that the in-service fleet may continue to operate.

Shifted MAX delivery targets?

In response to the newly discovered defect in the manufacturing process, the American plane maker has stated that this issue could potentially lead to short-term delays in the 737 MAX program.

According to a report by Reuters, Boeing is currently assessing whether this situation might impact its ability to meet its annual delivery target of at least 400 737 MAX jets for this year.

Recurring issues

This was not the first time of Boeing encountering manufacturing challenges within the 737 MAX program and the P-8 Poseidon this year. The supplier involved once again was Spirit AeroSystems, a key supplier to Boeing, responsible for shipping 737 fuselages from its facility in Wichita, Kansas.

Back in April 2023, Spirit AeroSystems revealed that an unconventional manufacturing process was utilized to join the aft fuselage and vertical tail fittings. It is worth noting that this issue did not impact the 737 MAX 9 model. Again, this was not an immediate safety of flight issue.

Boeing 737 fuselages being shipped out of Wichita, Kansas

Photo: Ian Dewar Photography/Shutterstock

In the second quarter of the 2023 earnings presentation, Brian West, Boeing’s CFO and Executive Vice President of Finance, mentioned that they have recommenced deliveries of rectified 737s and have initiated the production of new aircraft of the same type that aligns with the manufacturer’s standards. He added:

“In light of this progress, we are now transitioning production to 38 per month and still plan to increase to 50 per month in the 2025-2026 timeframe.”

Despite this issue, West stated that Boeing remains on track to deliver between 400 and 450 aircraft in 2023. However, with the emergence of this new problem, the company is currently reevaluating its ability to achieve this target.

What are your thoughts on this manufacturing defect involving the 737 MAX program? Let us know in the comments section below.

Source: Reuters

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