Boeing’s Parts Issue Stifles 737 Max Deliveries

Analyst Sees an $800 Million Hit to Free Cash Flow
The tailfin of a Boeing 737 Max 10
The tailfin of a Boeing 737 Max 10. (Jason Alden/Bloomberg News)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Boeing Co. is pausing deliveries of some 737 Max jets to address a production issue on the rear end of some aircraft, dealing a setback to the U.S. manufacturer just as it ramps up production of the model that’s a major cash cow for the company.

The shares fell 6.1% to $200.49 in early morning trading in New York April 14 after Boeing said late April 13 it expects deliveries to decline in the near-term as it inspects affected aircraft. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., which supplies the faulty part, declined 18% — its biggest drop in more than three years — to $29.18.

Boeing was just regaining its footing following years of turmoil caused by the pandemic and a global grounding of the single-aisle Max. The planemaker had been briefing customers on plans to increase production rates of the Max, Bloomberg reported last week. Days later, Boeing reported a surge in quarterly deliveries that outpaced rival Airbus SE for the first time in almost five years.

“Prior to the announcement, Boeing was coming off a high,” Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu wrote in a note.

Based on preliminary knowledge, the analyst expects to cut her estimate for Max deliveries this year by 20% from its current level of 425 planes. She sees an $800 million hit to free cash flow for Boeing, where the Max represents more than a quarter of expected 2023 revenue.

The planemaker said it was formally notified of the issue on April 12 by Spirit, which assembles most of the 737’s aluminum frame. The problem involves two of the eight fittings that attach the jet’s vertical tail to the rear end of its fuselage.

The issue involves Boeing’s best-selling 737 Max 8, Max 7, a high-density version, along with a militarized 737 known as the P-8. Spirit and Boeing said they have identified the production numbers of the planes with the problematic fittings, though not every jet is affected.

It’s too soon to tell if the quality flaw will affect Boeing’s plans to speed up 737 production. The planemaker is working to learn the extent of the problem and what’s required to address it, according to the company.

Airlines’ Max Dependence

United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it doesn’t expect a significant impact to flying plans for the summer. Southwest Airlines Co. said it’s talking with Boeing to determine the effect on deliveries this year and beyond, but has a “near-term cushion” in terms of available aircraft.

Anthony Marshall of UPS shares the gold standard for an efficient and effective EV maintenance cycle. Hear the program above and at

Southwest, which is counting on the Max for future fleet growth, estimates it will receive 100 of the aircraft this year, while United is scheduled to receive 135, according to regulatory filings.

The manufacturing issue doesn’t immediately affect the safety of planes in the air, Boeing said. It likely involves a significant number of undelivered aircraft that are either in production or storage, and a portion of in-service jets built as far back as 2019, according to the company.

“We have processes in place to address these types of production issues upon identification, which we are following,” Spirit said in a separate statement. “Spirit is working to develop an inspection and repair for the affected fuselages.”

Inspections, Rework

The inspections will take place in an accessible area of the structure. That means any rework is likely to be far less disruptive than Boeing’s repairs to address structural imperfections with the 787 Dreamliner, the company said.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info

Deliveries of those planes were halted for more than a year, starting in mid-2021, over tiny manufacturing flaws in the jet’s carbon-composite frame. In some instances they could only be reached by ripping out aircraft cabins.

Boeing temporarily paused Dreamliner deliveries again earlier this year after learning of a documentation issue with a fuselage component. Analysts expect Boeing officials to provide updates on the company’s efforts to stabilize 737 and 787 production at its April 18 annual meeting and first-quarter earnings report on April 26.

— With assistance from Richard Clough, Siddharth Philip, Anurag Kotoky and Mary Schlangenstein.