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Boeing aircraft orders, deliveries dry up in January

An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 21, 2019.

Lindsey Wasson | Reuters

Boeing‘s aircraft orders and deliveries fell in January as the company grappled with the fallout from a midflight blowout of a fuselage panel on one of its 737 Max 9s, an accident that overshadowed the manufacturer’s strong finish last year.

The company handed over 27 planes last month, its lowest tally since September, compared with 67 deliveries in December. It sold three Boeing 737 Max planes, but also logged three cancellations.

The deliveries were roughly in line with what some analysts expected. The three gross orders comes after a big December when Boeing sold 371 planes.

Boeing rival Airbus handed over 30 planes in January.

Boeing executives have been scrambling to convince airline customers, investors and regulators that it will find more reliable footing after the Jan. 5 accident, when a door plug blew out when an Alaska Airlines flight was at 16,000 feet shortly after leaving Portland, Oregon. No one was seriously injured on Flight 1282, but the violent detachment ripped off headrests and exposed travelers to a gaping hole in the 26th row.

Bolts that hold the unused exit door panel in place appeared to be missing from the fuselage piece, which had been removed and put back at Boeing’s 737 Max factory in Renton, Washington, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report last week.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has vowed to review manufacturing processes at the company’s facilities. The Federal Aviation Administration said it would halt Boeing’s planned production increases until it is “satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.”

“I’m sort of glad they called out a pause because that’s a good excuse to just take our time, do it right,” Calhoun said on an Jan. 31 earnings call.

The FAA is auditing Boeing’s production and the agency’s administrator, Mike Whitaker, told CNBC last month that it will keep “boots on the ground” at Boeing and perform direct inspections of work there.

Whitaker is traveling to the Renton plant this week.

Boeing’s January deliveries included three Max planes to Chinese customers, the first in about four years. 

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