Boeing has warned that near-term 737 Max deliveries are likely to be delayed, after it was alerted to a “nonconformance” in the fuselages of 50 undelivered jets.
The airframer says a supplier had flagged the issue on 1 February, stating that rivet holes on the fuselages “may not have been drilled exactly to our requirements”.
Boeing adds that the issue “is not an immediate flight-safety issue”, and that all 737 Max aircraft can continue in operation.
In a note to employees, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Stan Deal, adds: “[We] currently believe we will have to perform rework on about 50 undelivered airplanes. While this issue could delay some near-term 737 deliveries, this is the only course of action given our commitment to deliver perfect airplanes every time.”
The airframer did not name the supplier, but media reports suggest it was Spirit AeroSystems that had flagged the issue.
The 737 Max programme has come under deeper scrutiny in recent months, following a mid-flight door plug blowout involving an Alaska Airlines Max 9.
The 5 January incident left a gaping hole in the side of the aircraft, although the pilots landed safely without serious injuries to passengers or crew.
Investigations into the incident have begun, with regulators looking into quality control issues at the airframer. More than 170 Max 9s – fitted with the same door plugs as the Alaska jet – were also grounded for inspections.
On 27 January, major operators like Alaska and United Airlines returned the type to service, after completing the requisite inspections.
In his latest comments, Deal says the 737 Max programme will “dedicate several days” this week at its Renton, Washington production facility to “focus on quality”.
According to Deal, employees on the 737 Max programme have “voiced frustration” about how unfinished work from both Boeing and its suppliers “can ripple through the production line”.
“We have to maintain this discipline within our four walls and we are going to hold our suppliers to the same standard. We recently instructed a major supplier to hold shipments until all jobs have been completed to specification.
”While this delay in shipment will affect our production schedule, it will improve overall quality and stability,” Deal says.