Expert warns latest issues with Boeing 737 could impact your summer travel

RENTON, Wash. — Boeing is dealing with yet another issue in the production of its best-selling jet series, the 737. That’s after the company that assembles the jets in Renton found that holes may have not been drilled properly in the fuselages of some undelivered 737s.

Those details were revealed in a memo sent to Boeing employees involved in the manufacture of the 737 and the 737 MAX 9, the latter of which has come under scrutiny after a door plug blew off during a flight in mid-air with passengers on board in January. That same memo also revealed that more than a thousand recommendations were sent to Boeing managers from employees on how to improve quality control during the manufacture of the 737.

Henry Harteveldt is a travel and aviation analyst based in California for Atmosphere Research Group, and he says the latest issue regarding the mis-drilled holes is a troubling development for Boeing.

“What is concerning is there is this steady drip of problems,” he said. “I am concerned this could impact summer travel.”

Harteveldt said only time will tell if Boeing slowing down deliveries or production could impact the traveling public.

“There may be fewer aircraft being delivered to airlines than expected,” he noted. “Importantly, some of those delays could possibly affect this all-important summer travel season. The FAA has told Boeing that it may not increase the production rate of the 737 MAX.”

In a memo sent to employees Sunday Boeing said it learned some holes were mis-drilled after a supplier notified Boeing.

A fix could mean slowing deliveries, and Harteveldt says airlines with fewer planes could have less capacity on some routes, or may even not start new ones.

“A delay in delivery of any of these aircraft certainly could impact those airline’s schedules,” he warned.

Alaska Airlines already put Boeing on notice after the door plug blowout and has found concerns as it inspected planes. Harteveldt said it’s premature to say whether Boeing’s mis-drilled holes issue could impact our region’s largest carrier or any airline. But, he did stress Boeing, the FAA, and the airlines are acting and that this latest problem may not be a huge safety issue.

“While it certainly is embarrassing for Boeing and Spirit that these holes may have been drilled in the wrong place, we have not seen these issues manifest themselves into a structural failure of the aircraft,” Harteveldt pointed out.

In a statement, an FAA Spokesperson told KIRO 7:

“Boeing informed the FAA of an issue with two holes that were drilled for a window frame on some undelivered Boeing 737 MAX airplanes. The FAA will address the issue through our Continued Operational Safety process. We will ensure the airplanes meet all safety standards before approving them for delivery.”

The FAA statement only mentioned “undelivered” aircraft and did not say whether jets already manufactured could be grounded. FAA’s administrator is set to testify to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, where he will field more questions about Boeing and its production issues.