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June 24, 2024
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Only ‘some units’ of Boeing 737 and MAX aircraft are affected by the latest production flaw in the aft pressure bulkhead, Spirit AeroSystems says in a statement on its website. The extent of the issue isn’t clear yet, as the supplier nor Boeing has disclosed numbers of affected aircraft that have been identified with elongated fastener holes.

The issue was first disclosed on Wednesday by The Air Current, which reported that last month, Boeing had identified a potentially widespread manufacturing quality issue on the aft pressure bulkhead of the 737 and MAX. Holes used to insert fasteners were found to be misdrilled and misaligned.

While not classified as an immediate safety of flight issue and in-service aircraft can continue to operate, Boeing needs to check the extent of the problem. This could affect aircraft deliveries, the airframer says. Boeing targets 400-450 deliveries of the 737 and MAX this year.

The rear pressure bulkhead is a crucial part of an aircraft, as it allows the passenger cabin to be pressurized. Manufacturing or other flaws could endanger the structural integrity of the bulkhead, resulting in cracks. The collapse of an aft pressure bulkhead was a key factor in the fatal crash of a Japan Airlines Boeing 747-200SR in August 1985, in which 518 occupants were killed.

‘Certain models of 737’

In a statement, Spirit AeroSystems said on August 23: “We are aware of a quality issue involving elongated fastener holes on the aft pressure bulkhead on certain models of the 737 fuselage produced by Spirit AeroSystems. Because Spirit uses multiple suppliers for the aft pressure bulkhead, only some units are affected. Spirit will continue to deliver units to Boeing.” According to Reuters, the issue is limited to a small number of MAX 8s only.

The Wichita-based company says that Spirit has implemented changes to its manufacturing process to address this issue. We are working closely with our customer to address any impacted units within the production system and address any needed rework. Based upon what we know now, we believe there will not be a material impact to our delivery range for the year related to this issue.”

Tailfin fittings

That delivery range is 370 to 390 737/MAX shipsets for the full year, Spirit said in its HY1 earnings call. This is down by some twenty to fifty fuselages after Spirit AeroSystems detected another manufacturing issue on the fuselage in the second quarter of this year. This affects tailfin fittings, of which two had not been produced according to standards for some time. Since then, Spirit and Boeing have identified the issue. All newly manufactured fuselages at Spirit are now conforming to production standards, while Boeing continues to do rework on 737 P-8A and MAX aircraft in inventory.

With a recent history of other production quality issues on the Boeing 787, Spirit AeroSystems continues to remain under scrutiny to get its act together.  

author avatar
Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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