Boeing’s 737 Max problems are improving, but plenty of other issues loom

Boeing’s 737 Max troubles are improving, the company’s quarterly results released Wednesday showed — but it’s facing a host of other problems.

The aircraft maker increased production of the Max to 19 a month in the third quarter, up from 16 a month in the quarter prior. Boeing added that it “continues to progress towards a production rate of 31 per month in early 2022.”

That’s good news about the Max, which had been grounded for 20 months in 2019 and 2020 following two crashes that killed 346 people. It was approved to fly passengers in the United States late last year and is in service in most of the world but not yet in China, a key market for air travel.

But Boeing’s other issues continue to loom.

In July it halted deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner after disclosing the planes’ fuselage was not joined together to meet precise standards. Getting production of both the Max and the Dreamliner back to normal is key for Boeing’s recovery from the Covid-fueled decimation of air travel — and the news about the Dreamliner isn’t good.

Boeing said Wednesday it has cut production of the 787 Dreamliner to only two a month, down sharply from the five each month that it was building earlier in the year.

Plus, the Dreamliner’s quality problems will result in a total of $1 billion of unanticipated costs. It booked $183 million of those costs in the most recent quarter.

Boeing also took a $185 million charge for the latest problems with its Starliner space capsule program designed to take astronauts and perhaps space tourists to the International Space Station. The company revealed in August problems with its propulsion system are worse than initially anticipated, putting yet another lengthy delay on the horizon. A second uncrewed orbital test flight is now anticipated in mid-2022, the company said.

Overall the company reported core operating income of $59 million. That’s isharply lower than the $755 million it made in the second quarter — but much better than the $754 million it lost a year earlier. Its adjusted net loss for the quarter was $350 million, worse than analysts expected.

Shares of Boeing, a Dow component, were narrowly lower in early trading

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