737 Cracks: Boeing Can't Suffer Any More Black Eyes

Boeing (BA) says cracks in the skins of its older 737s have appeared sooner than expected. The aerospace company reported that the planes require detailed inspections of their skins after 30,000 flights -- not the 60,000 specified in earlier maintenance guidelines.

The news is another setback for a company that can't afford one. It remains to be seen what liability Boeing may have to take on for the repairs of aircraft like the ones owned by Southwest (LUV). One of Southwest's 737s developed a hole on a flight from Phoenix, forcing the airline to ground planes and cancel hundreds of flights. It faces both repair and loss-of-business costs.

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Boeing already has at least one black eye for poor manufacturing and planning prowess: Its 787 Dreamliner is now years late. This has cost the airlines that ordered the plane untold millions of dollars in fuel costs. The 787 is designed, among other things, to lower the amount of fuel needed to fly long distances. Some carriers have said they may have the right to get financial credits for the late delivery of the aircraft. The 787 is slated to go into full service this year after numerous delays caused by labor unrest and parts shortages, among other issues.

Boeing has also been late a year late in its release of a new version of the 747, which will be marketed to air freight companies. Industry analysts say that this has cost Boeing $1 billion, and given rival Airbus a head start in the large air freight business.

These delays have not done much for shareholders either. Boeing's stock is down almost 10% over the last five years, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up about 12%.

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