Boeing Is Playing Astronaut When It Should Be Playing Mechanic – The Average Joe


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    Boeing Is Playing Astronaut When It Should Be Playing Mechanic

    Noah Weidner

    June 7, 2024

    Boeing ($BA) airplanes might have issues, but their spacecraft has even more. Since 2010, Boeing has been working on Starliner — a crewed capsule that shuttles astronauts to the International Space Station. In 2014, NASA gave Boeing billions to accelerate its development. But instead, it ran into problems — with launch delays due to failed missions, structural issues, and quality problems.

    Liftoff, at long last: It’s six years and five months overdue, but Boeing’s Starliner finally blasted off on its first crewed mission — a big step toward receiving NASA certification for crewed flights. Starliner will be an alternative to SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which has been the only certified option to fly since 2020 — but it wasn’t an easy or cheap journey.

    • In 2014, NASA paid Boeing $4.2B to build Starliner — only for SpaceX to beat them to certification with $2.6B for Dragon.
    • While Dragon has had 10 successful flights since its certification, Boeing’s first crewed launch faced problems like helium leaks and thruster issues.

    Worth the F(l)ight?

    Boeing’s space business has faced similar problems to its commercial aircraft business — although, with much fewer customers and flights. After certification, NASA has committed to at least six Starliner flights. However, some, like Bloomberg Opinion columnist Thomas Black, think Boeing should spin off its space business to focus on its aircraft business — before it’s outdone by rivals.

    • The Federal Aviation Administration has slowed Boeing’s recovery by limiting MAX production and delaying certifications for 737 MAX variants.
    • And later this month, Boeing’s CEO will testify in front of a panel investigating safety issues — just months before he’s expected to resign due to the company’s failures.

    It keeps getting worse: After facing a $4B hit last quarter, Boeing expects to burn through billions more this quarter, and won’t be cash flow positive this year. The CEO of Emirates, one of the biggest Boeing buyers, predicts a “five-year hiatus” until the aircraft manufacturer emerges from its crisis. With over 44% of Boeing’s revenue coming from its imperiled aircraft business in FY2024, it’s fair to say that Boeing should focus more on fixing than flying.

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