Aircraft rivet hole issues cause delays to Boeing 737 Max deliveries

Supplier to beleagered US aerospace giant spots problem, which would not be an 'immediate flight safety issue'

US aerospace giant Boeing is set to delay the deliveries of nearly 50 of its popular 737 Max aircraft after a supplier discovered a series of incorrectly drilled rivet holes.

The issues were first reported by an employee from Spirit AeroSystems, the fuselage supplier for the 737 Max, who discovered that the holes were too close to the edge of the piece of metal in a window frame, according to a report in Reuters.

Late last week, the problem was thought to affect 22 fuselages out of 47 inspected up to that point, but the problem may also exist in 737s already being used by airlines, the news outlet said. Reports now suggest the production glitch could affect around 50 aircraft fuselages.

A Boeing chief executive of the commercial planes arm, Stan Deal, wrote in a statement: "This past Thursday, a supplier notified us of a non-conformance in some 737 fuselages. I want to thank an employee at the supplier who flagged to his manager that two holes may not have been drilled exactly to our requirements."

He said the errors would were "not an immediate flight safety issue and all 737s can continue operating safely."

The aircraft maker is set to work on rectifying the issue on about 50 undelivered planes. Boeing's share price nosedived 2.2 percent in early trading on Monday, while Spirit's fell by 3.9 percent.

The news of the incorrect drilling adds to a string of mishaps affecting on of the world's largest aircraft makers.

In January, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the temporary grounding of approximately 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes one day after an emergency exit seal, known as a door plug, blew out of one operated by Alaska Airlines mid-air.

A panel stopping up an unused door hole fell from an Alaska Airlines flight shortly after takeoff, forcing the plane to turn back to Portland, Oregon, although there were no serious injuries. A passenger's iPhone did escape the aircraft, but was later found undamaged – despite a 16,000 foot drop.

Earlier this month, United Airlines was said to be weighing up a future without the next version of Boeing's 737 jet series, the Max 10.

CEO Scott Kirby said the door plug blowout of the 737 Max 9 was causing the US airline to reflect on its choice of future aircraft. "This isn't new. The Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel's back for us," he said. ®

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