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Boeing delivered 9 Dreamliners in first full month since hiatus, but Max deliveries shrank

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After a five-month hiatus on deliveries, Boeing Co. delivered nine of its 787 Dreamliner jets in April. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Multiple 787 Dreamliner jets made their way into customers' hands in April, the first full month of deliveries for the North Charleston-based program since Boeing Co. ended its monthslong delivery hiatus. 

Now deliveries for another jet program, the 737 Max, are paused after electrical issues were discovered that pulled dozens of the jets out of service.

The planemaker ended last month with nine Dreamliner deliveries, the highest monthly total for 787 handoffs in more than a year. In addition to slowing demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, production issues with 787s prompted widespread inspections and completely stalled deliveries for about five months.

CEO Dave Calhoun quoted the figure of nine 787 deliveries on the company's April 28 earnings call. He also cautioned during the call that Max deliveries in April would be "very light."

Just four 737 Max jets were delivered last month. 

Deliveries of the Max had only recently started up again after federal regulators OK'd the jets to fly again after a 20-month grounding.

That new 737 delivery pause came just days after Boeing resumed Dreamliner deliveries with handoffs of two jets to United Airlines in late March. 

United took delivery of another 787 in April. American Airlines, Atlantis Aviation Corp. and All Nippon Airways all also received one 787 last month. Japan Airlines took delivery of two, and Air Lease Corp. received three. 

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The CEO of Los Angeles-based Air Lease, John Plueger, raised concerns about the Dreamliner delivery hiatus back in February on a company earnings call. Plueger had said it seemed like issues with the 787 had "mushroomed" and said it was "difficult to see a definitive fix" to the issues.

Boeing resumed Dreamliner deliveries about a month later.

Checks and rework on 787 jets are still underway, in North Charleston and at a widebody factory in Everett, Wash. where, until recently, Boeing was also assembling new Dreamliners. The planemaker consolidated the program in South Carolina earlier this year.

With eight months of deliveries left to log and an average of five additional 787s being built every month, Boeing will have to maintain its April pace for Dreamliner deliveries the rest of this year to meet its goal to unload most of the 787s it has in inventory by the end of 2021. 

The 787 delivery pause, along with ongoing production, meant that the aircraft started piling up. In January, about 80 finished 787s were waiting to be delivered, and, on the last earnings call, Boeing finance chief Greg Smith said that number had grown to about 100 jets.

April marked Boeing's third consecutive month with positive net orders. It secured commitments for 25 jets and logged 17 cancellations.

No new orders for Dreamliners were recorded in April, but Boeing did announce early this month that the German airline group Lufthansa agreed to purchase five so-called white tail 787s, or already-built planes that are in need of a buyer.

Those five were tacked onto an earlier order from 2019, bringing Lufthansa's total purchase to 25 Dreamliners. 

Reach Emily Williams at 843-607-0894. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

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