New Quality Issue Delays More Boeing 737 MAX Delivery

Boeing has announced that it needs to carry out additional work on around 50 undelivered planes with plate number 1, which may delay some of their near-term deliveries. The reason behind this is that Boeing's supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, has found two mis-drilled holes on some fuselages. Industry sources have reported that there is a spacing problem, known as "edge margin", found in holes drilled on a window frame on several jets. Boeing confirmed this finding in response to a query by Reuters. However, the company emphasized that safety is not affected, and existing 737s can continue to fly without any issue.


Boeing's CEO of Commercial Airplanes, Stan Deal, wrote a letter to his staff, thanking an employee of Spirit for flagging that two holes may not have been drilled precisely to their requirements. He mentioned that the potential condition is not an immediate flight safety issue, and they believe that they will need to perform rework on almost 50 undelivered airplanes. Deal reported that Boeing plans to devote several factory days this week at the Renton 737 plant to work on the misaligned holes and complete other outstanding work, allowing teams to pause work without shutting the entire line.

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This is the latest move by Boeing to tighten its operations after the blowout on an Alaska Airlines jet, which drew attention to quality controls. Investigators are examining whether bolts on the Alaska Airlines door plug were missing or badly fitted. They are expected to issue an interim report this week. Additionally, Boeing has asked a major supplier to halt all shipments until all jobs have been completed. The checks on plate number 1 planes focus on the potentially sloppy positioning of two holes on a window frame assembly supplied by Spirit, called "short edge margin." Edge margins, which refer to the gap between a fastener and the edge of a metal sheet, need to meet strict specifications designed to minimize the risk of metal fatigue over the long term. In the past, the FAA has occasionally ordered inspections for cracks resulting from fastener holes being mis-drilled.

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So far, the "non-conformance" or quality defect has been found in 22 fuselages out of 47 inspected up to that point, spread between Boeing and Spirit. It may exist in some 737s in service. The findings came to light in a routine notification known as a Notice of Escapement, where suppliers notify Boeing of any known or suspected quality slip. While such quality reports are common in aerospace, this discovery comes at a time when Boeing and its best-selling jet are under scrutiny following the Alaska Airlines emergency. Boeing last month urged suppliers to intensify checks and told them that it is "imperative" that they meet quality requirements, according to a memo seen by Reuters. People familiar with the matter said Boeing and Spirit have yet to come to an agreed position on how many of the mis-drilled holes have to be addressed and how many of the errors are so slight that the fuselages can be used "as is." Spirit, spun off from Boeing in 2005, is due to unveil earnings on Tuesday. Boeing 737s are assembled in Renton outside Seattle from fuselages shipped by train from Spirit in Wichita, Kansas. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had no immediate comment on the matter. The U.S. regulator has ordered Boeing to cap 737 production at the current rate of 38 jets a month for an undefined period while it addresses quality lapses, deferring the increases in production needed to meet rising demand for new jets. So far, Boeing has said it will keep buying parts from suppliers at previously planned higher rates in order to cushion the impact they face from the freeze in production growth.

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