Boeing received preliminary US regulatory clearance to restart deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, paving the way for the end to a drought that drained cash and dented the planemaker’s reputation for quality.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved Boeing’s plans to inspect and repair tiny manufacturing flaws in the Dreamliner’s carbon-composite frame, two people familiar with the plan said late Friday. The jet manufacturer had largely halted deliveries since late 2020 as its engineers found improperly filled gaps in about 20 locations.
The FAA agreement is a milestone for the company, but it won’t immediately resume sales. Boeing must still make required fixes and get FAA inspectors to approve each aircraft, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information hasn’t been publicly announced. While timing of delivery resumptions remains unclear, the company is aiming to begin in the week of Aug. 8, one of the people said.
A total of 120 of the jets, which retail for as much as $338 million, had been constructed but were parked and waiting for the FAA’s approval to resume sales to customers such as American Airlines, according to Boeing.
“We will continue to work transparently with the FAA and our customers towards resuming 787 deliveries,” Boeing said in an e-mailed statement.
The resumption of shipments will mark a financial turnaround for Boeing after years of operational lapses that have frustrated customers, suppliers and investors. It’s also a potential catalyst for Boeing shares, since the Arlington, Virginia-based company will start to unlock nearly $10 billion in cash tied up in Dreamliners stashed around its factories and in desert storage, according to Rob Spingarn, an analyst with Melius Research.
American Airlines on Friday referred to July 21 comments by Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr, who said on a conference call it expected to receive two 787-8s in “early August,” with the planes not beginning commercial flights until November.
American should receive a total of nine by the end of 2022, he said. American plans to receive four more 787-8s in the first part of 2023. The airline didn’t have any update, a spokeswoman said Friday.
Boeing plans to gradually ramp up production as it reduces the inventory of undelivered 787s, Stan Deal, the company’s commercial chief, said in an interview earlier this month at the Farnborough International Airshow. The aviation titan has been working with suppliers to step up hiring and prepare for the higher tempo, he said.
The chief problem for the 787 had been how the plane’s carbon-fiber fuselage sections were joined, which didn’t meet Boeing’s design specifications but wasn’t deemed to be a safety hazard.
The company’s plan to resume sales also includes addressing how the planemaker constructed the so-called forward pressure bulkhead, the structure near the nose that maintains pressurized atmosphere, and other issues that had arisen during the past year, said one of the people.