U.S. carriers, including Southwest Airlines Co, American Airlines Group Inc and United Airlines Holdings Inc, parked a handset of 67 work planes on Friday, about a third of the MAX jets currently in service worldwide.
Boeing Co. grounded dozens of 737 Max jets to fix an electrical fault that emerged just months after planes were cleared to return to the sky, forcing airlines to cancel flights and line up planes of substitution.
U.S. carriers, including Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc., parked a handset of 67 work planes on Friday, about a third of the Max jets currently in service worldwide. The manufacturing issue affects the planes of 16 airlines, not the entire Max fleet, Boeing said in a statement.
The US Federal Aviation Administration said the potential failure “could affect the operation of a standby power control unit,” adding that the agency is in “contact with airlines and the manufacturer and will ensure that the problem is resolved ”.
While the issue isn’t with the flight control system that was at the center of the Max’s nearly two-year grounding, it does take the shine off the return of Boeing’s most important product. The Chicago-based aircraft maker has been taking orders for the Max since U.S. regulators lifted a grounding warrant in November and the company recently secured an exceptional engagement from Southwest, which had publicly flirted with a smaller single-aisle jet manufactured by Airbus SE.
The problem appears mainly to be limited to the 737 Max planes delivered since the cancellation of the FAA grounding, according to an analyst. “The fix appears to be well understood and the timing would depend on the availability of technicians and access to equipment,” Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu wrote with a buy note on the title, in a research note to customers. . “Changing equipment can take hours or days to repair, a modest disruption.”
Boeing fell 1.4% to $ 251.36 at 11:17 a.m. in New York City, the biggest drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Shares had gained 19% this year through Thursday, double the increase in the Dow Jones.
Max’s latest disclosure comes as Boeing grapples with quality failures and manufacturing flaws that have damaged its reputation and affected its 787 Dreamliner, KC-46 military air tanker and Starliner spacecraft. The aerospace titan has also fired and sued a subcontractor in another large-scale project: turning two giant 747 jets into the next Air Force One fleet to transport US presidents.
The latest problem was discovered by Boeing mechanics “on a production aircraft during normal construction activity,” according to a message to customers that was reviewed by Bloomberg. Operators were informed just hours after a separate email touting the increasing number of flight hours and aircraft in service since the grounding in the United States ended.
Boeing declined to say how many planes have been affected out of the 183 Max jets that have returned to service since December. About 20 operators operate around 400 daily flights, according to a separate memo.
“Boeing attributed the problem to a production change to the installation process that occurred after the delivery of our last aircraft before the fleet grounded in March 2019, which means that 24 of our 737 Max are not are not affected by this problem, ”David Seymour, the US chief of operations, said Friday in a message to employees.
Boeing did not estimate how long the repairs would take. “It could take a few hours or a few days,” said Jessica Kowal, a spokesperson for Boeing.
Southwest said it has removed 30 Max 8 jets from its schedule, adding that it only flies 15 of its 58 Max jets per day and expects “minimal” disruption to its operations. The Dallas-based carrier said it had not encountered any operational issues related to the electrical issue identified by Boeing.
American has withdrawn 17 Max planes from service while United has stopped flying 16 and Alaska has suspended flights of four.
The 737 Max, Boeing’s latest generation of one-aisle workhorse, came to a standstill after two crashes five months apart in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019, in which 346 people were killed.
The plane was cleared for flight again by US regulators in November, followed by regulators in Europe and most other major markets outside of China and India.