by Julie Johnson

Boeing Co. found its biggest supplier improperly drilled holes in a component that helps maintain cabin pressure on the 737 Max jet, putting it at risk of derailing delivery targets for its best-selling model. Went.

The latest issue to Boeing’s cash-cow jet is not a safety threat, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday. But it’s a further complication for Boeing as it seeks to accelerate the manufacturing pace of the 737 family while dealing with supply-chain tensions and the fallout of a strike at Spirit Aerosystems Holdings Inc., the supplier that makes about 70% of the narrowbody jet frames. does.

“During a factory inspection, we identified fastener holes that did not conform to our specifications in the rear pressurized bulkheads of some 737 airplanes,” Boeing said via email on Wednesday. According to a report in The Air Current, the inspection revealed hundreds of misaligned and repetitive holes in some of the planes.

Boeing shares fell as much as 4.2% in after-hours trading following the report of the new Max issue. The stock was up 20% this year through Wednesday’s close on increased demand for travel and new jetliners.

According to the company, there will be some delays in 737 deliveries in the near term due to the manufacturing glitch, including the plane being routed to the Malaysian airline system, as Boeing conducts inspections and determines how many models were affected and where they should be used. is required. Boeing is evaluating whether it will be able to reach its goal of delivering 400 to 450 of the 737-Family jets this year.

The uncertainty underscores the pressure on aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus and their global networks of suppliers as they ramp up manufacturing while battling parts shortages and workforce turnover. Boeing and Spirit recently emerged from earlier disruptions to the 737 involving brackets in the vertical tail fins.

The latest problem reflects a troubled history for the 737 Max. The jet was grounded by regulators around the world after deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019 that killed hundreds of passengers on board. Lawmakers and others denounced the company’s safety culture during a 20-month period that caused billions of dollars in lost sales and other costs. The flight ban order for the model in the US was lifted in November 2020 after Boeing made a series of software upgrades and training changes. Other nations followed suit in different ways.

Boeing is still taking deliveries of the Max as it battles the latest supplier headache affecting some Max 8 models. Spirit uses multiple suppliers for the affected part, known as the afterpressure bulkhead, and not every unit was affected.

Wichita, Kansas-based Spirit said it has changed manufacturing processes to address the issue and continues to deliver 737 MAX frames to Boeing’s Seattle factories. “Based on what we know now, we believe this issue will not have a material impact on our delivery range for the year in question,” Spirit said in a statement.

For now, Boeing has not backed down on plans to increase 737 production to a pace of 38-jets per month, the next step in a plan to return production to pre-Covid levels by the middle of the decade. Boeing said the timing of moving to the higher rate would depend on the progress the company makes in resolving the issue with its supplier.

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