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More bad news for Boeing: just days after reports emerged that the airframer wants to ramp up the production of the MAX to 38 per month from mid-year, Boeing actually will have to slow down deliveries. A production quality issue on two fittings of the vertical tail fin needs a thorough review and will impact deliveries. Tailfin fitting issue latest setback for Boeing MAX.

The news was brought first by Bloomberg, but confirmed by Boeing, on Thursday. Boeing had been notified by Spirit AeroSystems that “a non-standard production process” was used for two of the eight tail fin fittings on the fuselages of some 737 P-8As, MAX 7s, MAX 8s, and MAX 8200s. Apparently, the issue is unrelated to the MAX 9 and -10. Surprisingly, the production flaw has been traced by Spirit AeroSystems to go back to 2019 but has been undetected until recently.

How many aircraft are affected has yet to be determined by Boeing, which it says will take days and probably even weeks. The airframer stresses that the issue is not an immediate safety-of-flight problem, it has to review how many delivered MAX and aircraft in inventory will need rework. Boeing says that deliveries are expected to be lower in the near term.

On December 31, Boeing still had 250 MAX in inventory. It will share the latest number on April 26 in its Q1 results update. Since the ungrounding of the MAX in December 2020, the airframer has delivered 757 aircraft through March 31 this year.

The issue puts the spotlight on Spirit AeroSystems, which has produced countless 737 and MAX fuselages for years as well as nose sections of the 787. In late 2020, production quality flaws were found in Section 41 of the Dreamliner, later followed by an issue with the forward pressure bulkhead. After a thorough review of the production processes, Spirit was confident that the 787 issues had been overcome last year, although CEO Tom Gentile said in February that rework was taking more time than expected. If the tail fitting problem is the same as mentioned by Boeing Commercial Aircraft President and CEO Stan Deal recently isn’t known.

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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.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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