US approves Boeing inspection, rework plan to resume 787 deliveries

The FAA approved Boeing’s proposal that requires specific inspections to verify that the aircraft’s condition meets requirements and that all work has been completed, a step that should allow Boeing (BA) to resume deliveries in August after it halted them in May 2021, the sources said.

On July 17, Boeing told reporters it was “very close” to restarting 787 deliveries.

The FAA referred questions about the approval to Boeing. “We do not comment on pending certifications,” the agency said.

Boeing did not confirm the approval Friday, but said it will “continue to work transparently with the FAA and our customers to resume 787 deliveries.”

Boeing has been struggling with production problems with the 787 for more than two years. In September 2020, the FAA said it was “investigating manufacturing defects” in some 787 jet aircraft.

In the wake of two deadly 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019, the FAA pledged to investigate Boeing more closely and delegate fewer responsibilities to Boeing for aircraft certification.

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Boeing has suspended deliveries of the 787 after the FAA raised concerns about the proposed inspection method. The FAA had previously issued two airworthiness directives to address production issues for aircraft in service and identified a new issue in July 2021.

Brian West, Boeing’s chief financial officer, said during an investor call this week that it had 120 of the 787s in stock and “made progress in completing the necessary reworks to prepare them for delivery.” Boeing “produces at very low rates and we will continue to do so until deliveries resume, gradually returning to 5 aircraft per month over time.”

The aircraft maker had not resumed deliveries until March 2021 after a five-month hiatus before halting them again. Friday’s approval came after lengthy discussions with the FAA.

The regulator had said it wanted Boeing to ensure it has “a robust plan for the rework it needs to perform on a large number of new 787s in storage” and that “Boeing’s delivery processes are stable.”

The FAA said in February that it will retain the authority to issue airworthiness certificates until it is confident that “Boeing’s quality control and manufacturing processes consistently produce 787s that meet FAA design standards.”

The agency’s then administrator, Steve Dickson, told Reuters in February that Boeing’s FAA needed “a systemic solution for their manufacturing processes.”

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An airplane built for US Airlines (AAL) is likely the first 787 aircraft to be delivered by Boeing since May 2021, sources said. That could come next month. American Airlines said during an earnings call last week that it expects nine 787s this year, including two in early August.

Boeing announced a $3.5 billion levy in January for 787 delivery delays and customer concessions, and an additional $1 billion in abnormal manufacturing costs due to manufacturing defects and related repairs and inspections.

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