By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON – The U.S. government on Monday approved the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner for delivery since 2021, clearing the way for American Airlines to take possession, people briefed on the matter told Reuters.
American Airlines said it expects to receive its first Boeing 787 delivery of the year as early as Wednesday and that the plane will enter commercial service in the coming weeks. The plane is its first 787 delivery since April 2021.
Earlier on Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it expected Boeing to resume deliveries of its 787 in coming days after the manufacturer made inspection and retrofit changes needed to meet certification standards.
Boeing halted deliveries in May 2021 after the FAA raised concerns about its proposed inspection method. In September 2020, the FAA said it was investigating manufacturing flaws in some 787 jetliners.
American Airlines said on a July earnings call it expects to receive nine 787s this year, including two in early August. It has 42 on order, excluding the plane it expects to receive this week.
Boeing said it continues “to work transparently with the FAA and our customers towards resuming 787 deliveries.”
Last month, the FAA approved Boeing’s plan for specific inspections to verify the airplane meets requirements and that all retrofit work has been completed.
Boeing has about 120 787s awaiting delivery. The FAA said it “will inspect each aircraft before an airworthiness certificate is issued and cleared for delivery.” Typically the FAA delegates airplane ticketing authority to the manufacturer but in some instances like the 737 MAX it has retained responsibility for approving each new airplane.
In the aftermath of two fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019, the FAA pledged to more closely scrutinize Boeing and delegate fewer responsibilities to Boeing for aircraft certification.
On Thursday, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen met with FAA safety inspectors in South Carolina as the agency mulled whether to allow Boeing to resume 787 deliveries.
Before Boeing suspended production, the FAA had previously issued two airworthiness directives to address production issues for in-service airplanes. It identified a new issue in July 2021.
The planemaker had resumed deliveries in March 2021 after a five-month hiatus before halting them again. The FAA said earlier it wanted Boeing to ensure it “has a robust plan for the re-work that it must perform on a large volume of new 787s in storage” and that “Boeing’s delivery processes are stable.”
In January, Boeing disclosed a $3.5 billion charge due to 787 delivery delays and customer concessions, and another $1 billion in abnormal production costs stemming from production flaws and related repairs and inspections.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter, Cynthia Osterman and David Gregorio)