Boeing Co on Tuesday reported another steep quarterly drop in commercial plane deliveries due to the grounding of the 737 MAX, but confirmed that it still plans to win approval get those jets back in the air this year.
The aerospace giant delivered 63 aircraft in its commercial program in the three months ended Monday last week, down from 190 the previous year, Boeing said in a statement.
The company disclosed its first new order for a MAX jet since the grounding, a single plane to an unnamed “VIP” customer for business use.
The lower delivery figures are the latest demonstration of the hit to the company’s finances and prospects because of the MAX, which was taken out of service in mid-March following two deadly crashes that killed 346 people.
Boeing has trimmed production of the plane and been forced to store hundreds of new aircraft that cannot be delivered.
The benchmark is closely monitored by Wall Street as a sign of profitability because plane deliveries are closely tied to revenue. Analysts are projecting a much lower profit for Boeing this year following the big drop in sales.
The statement on deliveries came as Boeing faced fresh questions on its chances of winning regulatory approval to resume MAX flights.
A Wall Street Journal article said that questions from European regulators about flight-control systems could delay approval.
Boeing said it continues to work with the EU Aviation Safety Agency and that its time frame has not changed.
“Looking forward, we continue to target regulatory approval for the 737 MAX return to service this quarter, though it’s the FAA [US Federal Aviation Administration] and other global regulators who ultimately will determine the time line,” a Boeing spokesman said.
Boeing also defended itself from a lawsuit filed in Texas by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) that accused the aerospace company of “deliberately misleading” it over the safety of the 737 MAX.
The grounding of the 737 MAX canceled more than 30,000 Southwest Airlines flights and caused more than US$100 million of lost wages for pilots, SWAPA said.
SWAPA is also seeking compensation for costs connected to investigations, the complaint said.
Boeing said it would fight the lawsuit.
Boeing “has the greatest respect for the men and women who fly for Southwest Airlines,” a company spokesman said. “We believe this lawsuit is meritless and will vigorously defend against it. We will continue to work with Southwest Airlines and its pilots on efforts to safely return the MAX to service.”
A SWAPA spokeswoman said that the lawsuit is an effort to recoup lost compensation and that the pilots plan to fly the MAX once it is deemed airworthy.
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