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Boeing swerves forecasts to focus on quality after MAX 9 blowout

Boeing has held off on annual financial and delivery forecasts to focus on improving production standards after the mid-air blowout involving one of its MAX 9 planes earlier this month.

The publication of the plane manufacturer's quarterly results to the end of December was the first potential opportunity for investors to learn about how the fallout from the panel failure aboard the Alaska Airlines aircraft would affect targets.

They were called into question last week when the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) placed an unprecedented ban on Boeing raising production volumes within its entire 737 MAX fleet of aircraft.

It cited concerns over manufacturing quality at Boeing following its work on the MAX 9 blowout on 5 January.

The safety scare was the first major incident for the company since fatal crashes involving two MAX variant aircraft in 2018 and 2019.

Faulty flight control software was blamed for both of those incidents - crashes that left 346 dead.

Boeing boss Dave Calhoun said on Wednesday: "We've taken significant steps over the last several years to strengthen our safety and quality processes, but this [Alaska Airlines] accident makes it absolutely clear that we have more work to do."

While expressing confidence in the company's efforts to bolster standards, he admitted in a letter to staff that Boeing had "much to prove" to regain trust, agreeing that the company must "go slow" to improve quality.

In an interview with Sky's US partner CNBC, he insisted the panel issue on the MAX 9 fleet was "completely under control".

More information is expected when US flight safety investigators release their report, which is expected within days.

Boeing's largest customer in Europe, Ryanair, has been among those to have complained about issues with planes on delivery.

However, chief executive Michael O'Leary told Sky News last week he had noticed improvements more recently and expressed confidence in not only its MAX 8 planes but in Boeing's recovery efforts.

That is despite frustration within Ryanair at delays to its delivery schedule that are holding back its own growth ambitions.

"We will not rush the system and we will take our time to do it right," Mr Calhoun added.

Boeing said on Wednesday that 737 aircraft were currently being produced at a previously outlined rate of 38 per month.

The FAA's restrictions would prevent any increase, meaning Boeing's previously disclosed plans to raise production will not be met for the foreseeable future.

In its fourth quarter, the three months to the end of December, Boeing reported a narrowed loss of $30m (£23.7m) compared with the same period a year earlier.

Revenue rose 10% to $22bn (£17.4bn), also beating analysts' expectations.

As expected, the report showed an increase in MAX 9 production ahead of the mid-air blowout.

Shares, which had lost a quarter of their value this month, were up by more than 3% on Wednesday.