- The US FAA has publicly criticized Boeing’s quality procedures, making it clear that “business as usual” is not an option for the company.
- Aviation figure Steven Udvar-Hazy warns that if there is another significant problem, the FAA will stop 737 production, calling for Boeing to show leadership in aircraft design.
- Late deliveries have become the new norm for both Boeing and Airbus, with aircraft sometimes being a year or more behind schedule.
Last week, the US Federal Aviation Administration made it crystal clear how far Boeing has sunk, issuing a public rebuke of its quality procedures and stressing that “it won’t be back to business as usual at Boeing.” The condemnation took another course when one of the world’s most respected aviation figures warned just how thin the ice is under Boeing and its Renton manufacturing facility.
Is there a next-gen aircraft coming from Boeing?
At the end of December 2023, leading aircraft financier Air Lease Corporation (ALC) had a fleet of 463 owned aircraft and 78 managed aircraft, with 334 new aircraft on order from Boeing and Airbus for delivery through 2029. Executive Chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy has played a significant part in the rise of aircraft leasing over the last decade and when he speaks, OEMs like Boeing and Airbus take notice, particularly given the large orders that ALC places for their airplanes.
On Monday, he told the media at the Airline Economics conference in Dublin that if there is one more significant problem, “the FAA will stop (737) production.” His comments, as reported by Reuters, include the belief that any further production snags will result in a heavier regulatory backlash, and while he didn’t call for management changes, he did say that Boeing should display its once-vaunted leadership in aircraft design, adding:
“I think where the Boeing board and Boeing management have not paid enough attention is to where we go from here, what is the next generation of airplane? What will Boeing be able to produce that will be a step-change improvement in operating economics to what they have today.”
“So in that respect, I fault Boeing. As far as fixing their problems, there’s enough written in the media; I don’t have to really comment on that.”
The context of the discussion was the recent door plug blowout on an eight-week-old Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 and the scathing directive from the FAA that “the Jan. 5 Boeing 737-9 MAX incident must never happen again.” Udvar-Hazy does not believe Boeing has a systemic production problem, and the incident was contained to the Renton plant outside Seattle where the 737 was assembled.
Late deliveries have become the new norm
The Reuters report suggests his more pressing concern is around on-time deliveries and the tremendous challenges aircraft manufacturers, engine makers and suppliers face. Although on that point Udvar-Hazy wants the OEMs to stabilize factories before pushing too hard to increase production to meet rising demand.
Photo: Minh K Tran | Shutterstock
That’s a point well made as both Airbus and Boeing struggle to meet their existing commitments but talk of ramping up the assembly lines. Highlighting the issue, Udvar-Hazy said:
“By way of example, we have a 787-10 that’s going to hopefully deliver in May and it was supposed to deliver in the spring of 2020, so it’s going to be four years old. We have many 737s and Airbus single-aisle aircraft that are a year late, eight months late. That’s more the norm today.”
Last week, the FAA said it would increase scrutiny of Boeing and banned any expansion of 737 MAX production until it is satisfied that all quality control issues are addressed. The FAA also said it will use its enforcement authority to ensure Boeing is held accountable for any non-compliance, and it is aggressively expanding its presence at all Boeing facilities.
What do you think of these developments? Let us know in the comments.