As if Boeing needed any more bad news.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted an internal audit in December of the Boeing 737 Max and found wiring issues could potentially cause a "catastrophic" short circuit at the rear of the plane and lead to a crash, a senior engineer at Boeing and three people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.
Boeing is examining if two wiring harnesses at the rear of the plane are too close together that would result in an electric short that would cause the plane's tail to malfunction in flight, said one of the sources.
If Boeing decides to fix the wiring problem, it would mean that more than 800 Max jets would have to see wiring reconfiguration.
Of course, Boeing told The Times that the fix is relatively simple. Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Sunday the "identified issue is part of a rigorous process, and we are working with the FAA to perform the appropriate analysis. It would be premature to speculate as to whether this analysis will lead to any design changes."
It was unclear, however, if simple also means cheap, and some have speculated that a full-blown recall could cost tens ofd billions.
An FAA statement Sunday said investigators are "re-analyzing certain findings from a recent review of the proposed modifications to the Boeing 737 MAX." The agency will "ensure that all safety-related issues identified during this process are addressed."
The FAA said the wiring harnesses are too close together, located at the rear of the plane, would cause the motors that control the stabilizer, a horizontal fin on a plane's tail, to malfunction (short circuit) and could lead to a potentially "catastrophic" crash.
Max engines have also become another focus for FAA investigators.
RE: Boeing 737 Max— Nicholas Ramos (@NickVRamos) December 25, 2019
Anyone who missed this post back in March should read throughly. The issue with the 737 Max is not a software issue, it’s a design issue. Boeing got desperate when Airbus released the NEO, so they too wanted a big engine. Merry Christmas $ba.d$ba https://t.co/3I8z0p6ljn
All of these issues, of course, are separate from the MCAS software that was likely the cause of two separate Max crashes, killing 346 people. New Max issues could delay the ungrounding even further. There is no clear timeline of when the planes will return to the air.
Meanwhile, confirming that things are going from bad to worse, the WSJ reported that Boeing is mulling raising more debt to "improve finances", read fund buybacks, as costs related to the grounding of its 737 MAX are raising. The paper reports that Boeing is also considering cutting CAPEX, freezing acquisitions and cutting on R&D to save cash. In total, analysts expect Boeing to raise as much as $5BN in additional debt to help cover expenditures that could rise to $15BN in 1H 2020. It was not clear if all of this new money, or just most of it, would to repurchasing BA shares.