Boeing 737 MAX portrayed in Alaska Airlines livery.

Inspections Overshadow Solid Results at Boeing

Feb. 2, 2024
The aircraft manufacture withheld its 2024 financial forecast amid the continuing investigation into a mid-air incident, and FAA’s ongoing oversight of 737 MAX assembly.

Boeing Co. delivered fairly a positive performance and earnings report for 2023, but the results are clouded by the ongoing inquiry into the cause of an in-flight cabin failure for an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 jet on January 5. There were no fatalities in the incident, but the issue has put Boeing’s most profitable aircraft program under the scrutiny of the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.

On January 31 Boeing reported it delivered 528 commercial airplanes in 2023 (including 396 of the 737 MAX series, nine more than in 2022); and logged 1,576 net new aircraft orders for the year (up from 774 net new orders in 2022.) It was one Boeing’s best-ever years for orders and deliveries, hitting its revised goal for deliveries – a critical metric for revenue – but it missed the original forecast.

The company did not provide any guidance to investors for the coming quarter or financial year, and Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun acknowledged the ongoing investigation as the reason for that. "While we often use this time of year to share or update our financial and operational objectives, now is not the time for that," Calhoun stated in one of his regular memos to Boeing employees. "We will simply focus on every next airplane."

In the January 5 event, an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland, Ore., to Ontario, Calif., experienced an in-flight emergency shortly after takeoff when a side panel in the cabin was blown open, depressurizing the aircraft. The jet returned to Portland and landed safely with all 171 passengers and six crew members.

The FAA immediately grounded more than 170 aircraft of the same model, though most of those have been inspected and returned to service. Alaska Airlines has resumed service with the 737 MAX 9 jets in its fleet.

The FAA is conducting on-site inspections of Boeing’s assembly processes in Renton, Wash., and it’s not certain when the agency may report on its findings there. FAA already has put a temporary halt on Boeing’s goal to increase its assembly rate from 38 to 50 737 MAX jets/month.

The oversight also may delay the expected airworthiness certification for the next two models of the narrow-body jet series, the 737 MAX 10 and 737 MAX 7.

At the same time, the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the specific cause of the January 5 incident, and that report is expected during the week of February 5.

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