Boeing has taken the inevitable decision to reduce production of the 737 and MAX, now that deliveries of the latest model are on hold following the two MAX crashes. Production will be reduced from mid-April from 52 per month to 42 per month, Boeing president Dennis Muilenburg said in a press release on April 5.
For now, the reduced rate will have no consequences for Boeing staff: “At a production rate of 42 airplanes per month, the 737 program and related production teams will maintain their current employment levels while we continue to invest in the broader health and quality of our production system and supply chain. (…) We will also work directly with our suppliers on their production plans to minimize operational disruption and financial impact of the production rate change.”
Temporarily adjusting 737 production is “allowing us to prioritize additional resources to focus on software certification and returning the MAX to flight.”
In a seperate release, Spirit Aerosystems said it will continue to produce 52 737 fuselages in its Wichita facilities: “Spirit will store accumulated 737 MAX shipsets at its facilities. Those shipsets will then be transferred to Boeing to support their production plan”, says Spirit president Tom Gentile. “This staggered production approach allows us and our supply base to better prepare for and support 737 production.”
Spirit will no longer fill open positions, but no workers are made redundant.
Earlier this week engine maker CFM said it had no intention of reducing production of the LEAP-1B that powers the MAX. CFM also supplies the CFM56 for the 737NG.
NG drives 737 production
Revenue-wise, the 737 production line currently is fully dependent on the 737NG, which is running out. Boeing hasn’t released its March orders and deliveries update yet, but by March 1 it had a backlog of 24 737-800s, 46 737-800As, 2 737-700Cs, and 12 737-900ERs, or 84 NGs in total.
Boeing was in the process of increasing 737 production from 52 to 57, as it has a backlog of 4.636 MAX. It had run into various supplier issues last summer, which had 737NG/MAX deliveries as low as 29 in July after hitting 66 in March 2018. In December 69 single-aisle Boeings were delivered, but this was down to 32 again in February. MAX production will continue, but all deliveries are on hold.
Boeing 737 production in Renton. (Boeing)
Review of processes
While in the midst of a delicate software fix of the MAX that might take many months before it is certified by all agencies, Muilenburg announced another important decision. The Board has established a committee to review Boeing’s “company-wide policies and processes for the design and development of the airplanes we build. The committee will confirm the effectiveness of our policies and processes for assuring the highest level of safety on the 737-MAX program, as well as our other airplane programs, and recommend improvements to our policies and procedures”. The committee will be chaired by Edmund P. Giambastiani, former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Although the release doesn’t elaborate on this, it seems most likely that this could have implications for the 777X, which currently is prepared for her first flight. It also makes it highly unlikely that Boeing is in a position to give authority to offer for the new Mid-Market Aircraft (NMA), which Muilenburg said in January was to be expected later in 2019 before a formal authority to launch in 2020.
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.