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Boeing Stock Plunges After FAA Grounds More 737 Max Jets

Consumer
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Boeing saw its stock plunge on Monday after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the temporary grounding of some Boeing 737 Max jets over a faulty aircraft part that flew off during a flight on Friday.

Boeing shares fell 8.7% to close at $188.49, marking the stock’s largest single-day percentage decline since March 2020. The selloff wiped out over $10.6 billion in market value, dropping Boeing’s market capitalization to around $111 billion.

The FAA directive impacts 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 jets that have been fitted with a faulty door plug. During an Alaskan Airlines flight last Friday, one of these door plugs flew off the fuselage mid-flight, raising serious safety concerns. No one was injured in the incident.

This latest 737 Max issue comes on the heels of a disastrous period for Boeing’s bestselling aircraft. In 2018 and 2019, two deadly crashes involving the 737 Max occurred just months apart, taking the lives of all 346 passengers and crew.

Investigations found fault with the plane’s MCAS automated flight control system, leading to a complete grounding of all 737 Max planes worldwide for nearly two years as Boeing implemented software fixes and other changes. The 737 Max was recertified for service in late 2020.

While Friday’s door plug malfunction does not approach the severity of the systemic flight control problems that caused the prior crashes, it highlights that quality control and safety issues continue to plague Boeing’s production of the 737 Max.

The FAA indicated its grounding order was issued because the faulty door plug condition likely exists on other new Max 9 aircraft besides the one involved in Friday’s incident. The agency is working closely with Boeing to inspect all potentially impacted planes.

Boeing has declined to comment on whether it was aware of problems with the integrity of the door plugs during initial design and manufacturing of the 737 Max 9, which first entered service in 2018. The company stated it is fully cooperating with the FAA and the ongoing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Aviation analysts say while concerning, this latest 737 Max issue seems unlikely to have long-term negative repercussions for Boeing or airlines operating the plane.

“This accident does not alter our positive view on [Boeing],” said Ken Herbert, analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “Initial indications are that this is an isolated incident, and the financial risk to the MAX is not thesis changing.”

Analyst Seth Seifman of JPMorgan also characterized the event as a setback that is “not helpful” for Boeing’s efforts to ramp up 737 production and deliveries. However, Seifman noted the extent of the impact remains unclear until regulators determine next steps for returning the newly grounded planes to service.

While Wall Street sentiment toward Boeing remains cautiously optimistic, investors are reacting with an abundance of caution given the company’s checkered track record with the 737 Max family. Boeing simply cannot afford any more major quality issues or negative incidents related to its bestselling aircraft, which accounts for nearly 50% of total company revenue.

After the turbulence of the past few years, Boeing’s reputation has already taken a hit and its management team is under immense pressure to safely accelerate production and deliveries of the 737 Max and other aircraft. This will be no easy task as supply chain constraints and labor shortages continue to create headwinds for aerospace manufacturing.

With air travel demand roaring back after the pandemic plunge, Boeing’s order book is full and the company aims to play catch up after recent challenges. But if Boeing cannot deliver those orders efficiently while maintaining the highest safety standards, more occasions like Monday’s stock plunge are likely on the horizon.

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