A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane on the assembly line in Renton on March 27. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane on the assembly line in Renton on March 27. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Boeing to cut production rate of 737s in Renton by 19%

The move will “accommodate the pause in MAX deliveries” caused by the model’s grounding after two crashes.

Associated Press and Herald staff

RENTON — The Boeing Co. is cutting production of the 737 airliner this month to focus on fixing flight-control software and getting the MAX model of the plane back in the air.

The company said Friday that starting in mid-April it will cut production of the Renton-built 737 from 52 to 42 planes per month — a 19 percent reduction.

Boeing has suspended deliveries of the MAX version of the 737 after regulators around the world grounded the jet following deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The company has had to park completed 737 MAX planes in Renton, Seattle and Everett.

Industry analysts had been under the impression the company would continue production at the current rate, and until Friday speculation concerned whether the company would postpone a planned increase to 57 planes per month.

The Renton factory assembles a mix of 737s — the new MAX version and the previous NG model.

In the case of both 737 MAX 8 crashes, preliminary reports say faulty sensor readings erroneously triggered an anti-stall system that pushed the planes’ noses down. Pilots struggled in vain to regain control over the automated system. In all, 346 people died in the crashes.

In a news release, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said, “… we’re adjusting the 737 production system temporarily to accommodate the pause in MAX deliveries, allowing us to prioritize additional resources to focus on software certification and returning the MAX to flight.”

“At a production rate of 42 airplanes per month, the 737 program and related production teams will maintain their current employment levels while we continue to invest in the broader health and quality of our production system and supply chain,” Muilenburg said.

The announcement to cut production comes one day after Boeing acknowledged another software issue that needs fixing on its 737 MAX jets, and the discovery explains why the aircraft maker is delaying its schedule for getting the planes back in the air.

A Boeing spokesman on Friday called it a “relatively minor issue” and said the plane maker already has a fix in the works.

The spokesman, Charles Bickers, said the latest issue is not part of flight-control software that Boeing has been working to upgrade for months.

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