Boeing has identified a potentially widespread manufacturing quality issue on the 737 Max stemming from structural assembly work on the jet’s aft pressure bulkhead conducted by supplier Spirit AeroSystems, according to two people familiar with the issue.
Boeing confirmed the issue and said it has now completed its technical analysis of the problem. “We understand the issue and required fix,” the company told The Air Current, emphasizing that it does not consider the issue to be an immediate threat to the safety of flight for the in-service fleet.
However, the company is at a minimum planning for near-term delivery delays for some 737 Max aircraft, making the latest quality issue another in an extended string of headaches that the plane maker and its most important supplier have endured as they work to find a stable production tempo.
The issue, which was discovered by Boeing within the last month, has not been previously reported. The prospect of widespread misdrilled holes on a particularly sensitive part of the 737’s structure rekindles questions around Boeing and Spirit’s relationship and the pair’s ability to meet the coming production ramp up plans, especially after decades of doing the same work for thousands of aircraft.
Boeing has inspected multiple fuselages and found some aircraft with hundreds of misaligned and duplicated holes. These holes, called “snowmen” because of their elongated shape of two overlapping holes of differing size, were filled with fasteners and passed quality inspections at Spirit before being shipped by rail to Boeing.
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