By Valerie Insinna
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Boeing said on Tuesday it delivered 27 planes in January, a 29% decline from the same month last year, as regulators, lawmakers and customers piled pressure on the plane maker after a MAX last month 9 cabin panel had burst in the air.
Deliveries of the profit-making 737 MAX fell to just 25 aircraft after Boeing delivered over 40 MAXs for two solid months. While January deliveries tend to be slower, Boeing delivered 38 aircraft in January 2023, including 35 MAXs.
The US plane maker recorded three gross orders after a blockbuster in December, its lowest total since 2019. It said customers did not identify canceled orders for two 737 MAXs, while Spanish airline Air Europa canceled an order for a 787 Dreamliner.
Boeing’s European competitor Airbus delivered 30 jets in January and reported 31 new orders.
After a Jan. 5 accident in which a door plug on a brand-new Alaska Airlines MAX 9 came loose in flight, Boeing scrambled to explain and strengthen its safety measures. In response, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last month grounded the MAX 9 for several weeks and cut Boeing’s production of the MAX while it conducted an audit of the plane maker’s manufacturing process.
This month, Boeing supplier Spirit Aerosystems discovered a new quality defect. Spirit mistakenly drilled holes in the window frames of some 737s, potentially slowing deliveries of about 50 planes.
In addition to the 737 MAX deliveries, Boeing delivered a 787 Dreamliner and a widebody 767 converted into a KC-46 tanker for the US Air Force.
Boeing’s order backlog fell from 5,626 to 5,599 aircraft as of January 31. Without taking accounting adjustments into account, a total of 6,189 orders were not fulfilled.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in a conference call on Jan. 31 that the company would not announce aircraft delivery targets for 2024 as it weathers the current crisis.
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“We’re just going to focus on each next aircraft and make sure we meet all the standards that we have, all the standards of our regulator and the requirements of our customers,” he said.
Plane manufacturers typically deliver about the same number of produced planes in a given month, yet Boeing has dozens of 737s and 787s that have been in storage or need rework to fix production errors due to the MAX crisis in 2018-2019. Boeing executives said the company plans to deliver most of these existing aircraft by the end of 2024.
(Reporting by Valerie Insinna; Editing by David Gregorio)