Boeing finds new issue with 50 undelivered 737 MAX

Poorly drilled holes have been detected in fuselages assembled by Spirit Aerosystems and will have to be reworked, company says

In its journey of trying to normalize production of the 737 MAX jets, Boeing once again encountered issues in the assembly of the aircraft’s fuselages.

According to a company statement, Spirit Aerosystems employees found non-conformities in some 737 fuselages. These were poorly drilled holes made in the window frames. Because of this, Boeing stated that it will have to rework around 50 aircraft.

“This past Thursday, a supplier notified us of a non-conformance in some 737 fuselages. I want to thank an employee at the supplier who flagged to his manager that two holes may not have been drilled exactly to our requirements,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said in a letter to employees.

The new discovery comes amid heightened scrutiny over the safety of its commercial aircraft after a door plug came loose in flight on an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 on Jan. 5.

The aircraft was flying 1282 and had taken off from Portland bound for Ontario, California, when at approximately 16,000 feet it suffered an explosive decompression.

737 MAX fuselage supplied by Spirit AeroSystems (LunchwithaLens/CC)

Despite the huge hole in the fuselage, no passengers were injured. There was no one in the seats next to the door plug, according to reports.

Although the NTSB, which is investigating the incident, has not released any conclusions, there are strong suspicions that the part, which replaces an emergency exit in configurations with fewer seats, was not fixed as intended.

Dozens of 737 MAX 9s were grounded by the FAA as a precautionary measure pending a detailed inspection. The aircraft returned to service from January 25th.

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In 2023, Boeing had already found poorly executed holes in some parts of the fuselage that required rework.

Problems have been detected in the assembly of components at Spirit Aerosystems, a company that was created from a division of Boeing.

The difficulties made the planemaker intervene in Spirit with extra investment. In October 2023, the company replaced its CEO with Pat Shanahan, a former executive who worked for 30 years at Boeing.