Boeing’s commercial aircraft deliveries plunged 39 per cent in the second quarter of calendar 2019 as newly built 737 MAXes sit grounded awaiting clearance to return to the skies following two fatal crashes.
Figures released by Boeing on Tuesday (US time) showed the company delivered 90 aircraft in the three months to June 30 2019, down substantially from 149 aircraft deliveries in the three months to March 31 2019.
The 737 was hardest hit with deliveries down from 89 to just 24 in the second quarter. Boeing’s other deliveries in the period included two 747s, 10 767s, 12 777s and 42 787s.
Boeing’s half-year total of 239 deliveries was down 37 per cent from 378 deliveries in the prior corresponding period, putting the aerospace giant’s claim as the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer in jeopardy.
The figure was well behind Airbus, which announced on Tuesday it had achieved 389 deliveries in the same period.
In April, Boeing said it was slowing production of the 737 MAX to 42 aircraft a month, from a previous rate of 52 aircraft a month. Deliveries of the 737 MAX to airlines were also halted.
In further bad news for Boeing this week – safety issues that need fixing on the grounded 737 MAX aside – was the decision on July 7 by fledgling Saudi Arabian low-cost carrier (LCC) Flyadeal to abandon a provisional order made with Boeing in December 2018 to buy up to 50 737 MAX aircraft.
Instead, it has ordered 30 A320neo aircraft from Airbus, adding to the 11 A320s already in its fleet.
The airline didn’t directly attribute the MAX’s grounding to its decision, instead saying in a statement that scheduling was behind the move.
Earlier this week, Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said the company was taking action over a new data processing flaw raised by US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilots testing the 737 MAX.
FlightGlobal reported it affected the pilots’ ability to perform the procedure to counteract a “runaway stabiliser”.
Muilenburg said in a video posted on his Twitter page: “Through our comprehensive review process with the FAA we determined there is an additional flight condition we must address to reduce pilot workload and ensure the safety of the plane and the flying public.
“We agree with the FAA we must take action on this and we are already working on the required software.”
Muilenburg also said it “was important to take the time necessary to make these updates”, but gave no indication of when he thought the 737 MAX would be in the air again.
The safety of our airplanes and the crew and passengers who fly on them is our highest priority. We’ll take the time necessary to ensure the 737 MAX safely returns to service. pic.twitter.com/PAzdWdbCyn
— Dennis A. Muilenburg (@BoeingCEO) July 3, 2019
Multiple lawsuits have been filed by families of those aboard the crashed MAX planes, by pilots of the grounded aircraft and by airlines with around 400 737 MAX aircraft in their fleet around the world.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has also raised the issue in the 737 MAX of the autopilot failing to disengage in certain emergency scenarios where pilots may not be able to stop the plane from stalling, according to news agency Bloomberg.