NEW YORK (AFP) – Boeing on Tuesday reported another steep quarterly drop in commercial plane deliveries due to the grounding of the 737 MAX but confirmed 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 September 30, down from 190 in the year-ago period, 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 a business jet.
But 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 revenues.
Analysts are projecting much lower 2019 profits for Boeing following the big drop in sales.
The statement on deliveries came as Boeing faced fresh questions on its chances for winning regulatory approval in 2019 to resume flights on the MAX.
A Wall Street Journal article said questions from European aviation regulators about the jets’ flight-control systems could delay approval.
The FAA has previously signaled it could certify the MAX before the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and other bodies but the report briefly dented Boeing shares on Tuesday.
EASA said in an email that it is still assessing the MAX’s latest flight control computer software.
‘’We do not at this stage have any specific concerns resulting from that assessment that would mean that we could not agree to a coordinated return to service,’’ EASA said.
‘’However the assessment has not yet been completed. We are in continuous contact with both the FAA and Boeing.’’