Boeing (BOE, Washington National) said that it would slow down the production and delivery of a "substantial number" of B737 MAX and P-8 Poseidons due to a manufacturing issue at Spirit AeroSystems. The problem could potentially affect aircraft in-service that were manufactured after 2019 but does not pose "an immediate safety of flight issue", Boeing said, adding that it is still analysing the scale of the problem and its impact on future deliveries.

"The in-service fleet can continue operating safely. However, the issue will likely affect a significant number of undelivered B737 MAX airplanes, both in production and in storage. We expect lower near-term B737 MAX deliveries while this required work is completed," it said.

The problem concerns "a non-standard manufacturing process" used during the installation of two out of eight fittings of the aircraft's vertical stabilisers. It affects B737-7, B737-8, B737-8-200, and the B737-800-derived military P-8 Poseidon types, but not the B737-9.

"Spirit is working to develop an inspection and repair for the affected fuselages," the supplier said.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that it had validated Boeing's assessment that there was no immediate flight safety issue but emphasised that it would continue to assess all aircraft prior to delivery.

The American manufacturer delivered 111 B737 MAX in the first quarter of 2023. It had planned to gradually increase the production rate to its pre-2019 grounding level of 52 aircraft per month by early 2025.

Spirit AeroSystems is one of the key suppliers for the B737 programme. The Wichita-based company is the sole supplier of fuselages for Boeing's narrowbody aircraft and says it produces around 70% of the type's structure.