On Wednesday, Boeing said it was grounding all flights for the company’s latest narrow-body jet, the 737 MAX, happening just days before launch customer, Malindo Air, was supposed to take delivery of the new aircraft.
Despite these setbacks, the aircraft manufacturer expects that the first aircraft will still be delivered on time. The grounding could, however, spell trouble for future deliveries.
The Chicago-based manufacturer cited concerns involving the manufacturing of the aircraft’s engines as the reason for the grounding. The 737 MAX power plants, the Leap-1B, are produced by CFM International.
According to a tweet from Aviation Week, the grounding follows the discovery of cracks in parts of the aircraft’s low-pressure turbine. Only half of the engines will have to be sent back to the manufacturer due to different suppliers of the component that is having the issues.
Breaking: Boeing halts 737 MAX flights for engine inspections following discovery of cracks in low pressure turbine section pic.twitter.com/KHSQF2IimP
— Aviation Week (@AviationWeek) May 10, 2017
According to a tweet from CNN Aviation Editor, Jon Ostrower, all affected engines will have to be returned to CFM in Lafayette, Ind. or Villaroche, France to undergo investigation.
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) May 10, 2017
In a statement, Boeing added, “Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to temporarily suspend MAX flights. The step is consistent with our priority focus on safety for all who use and fly our products.”
The first flight of the 737 MAX 8 occurred on Jan. 29, 2016, while the first flight of the 737 MAX 9, the larger variant of the type, took place just under a month ago on April 13. Before the grounding, progress seemed to be going in the right direction for the company.
The recent announcement also triggered a drop in stock value for Boeing and General Electric (GE), part owner of CFM International. The Boeing Company saw stock value drop about 1.16 percent, while GE saw a drop of about 0.87 percent.
Along with the current stock drop, Boeing could face an even greater challenge from manufacturing competitor Airbus. The company already faced tough competition for sales for the new narrow-body jets via the Airbus A320neo family.
This grounding and possible setback for the 737 MAX program could make the A320neo a better option for airlines needing a “quick” replacement or fleet expansion.
As of the end of March, Boeing had 3,703 orders for the Boeing 737 MAX series from 48 different customers. Current customers include Southwest Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Air Canada, Ryanair, and many more.
More airlines are expected to order the 737 MAX as a replacement for current 737 “Next Generation” aircraft.
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