What happened

Shares of blue chip aerospace stock Boeing (NYSE:BA) dropped more than 7% in early trading Tuesday, before recovering to about a 2% loss by noon. Shares of Boeing's suppliers of airplane engines and large airplane parts such as fuselages and wings -- General Electric (NYSE:GE) and Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE:SPR) in particular -- fell even harder, and are remaining down longer.

In noonday trading, GE stock is off 3.5%. Spirit stock that was down more than 11% this morning has recovered to about a 7% loss.

But it all started with Boeing.

3 red airplanes leaving contrails pointing down

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

This morning, Boeing revealed that between ceaseless delays getting its 737 MAX airplane recertified to fly by the FAA, and an almost entire lack of interest in acquiring new airplanes by airlines that have seen their passenger rolls evaporate in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Boeing managed to deliver just four new aircraft in the entire month of May.  

"Four airplanes in a month," by the way, is the lowest delivery rate that Boeing has notched in the past 60 years. It's two planes fewer than Boeing delivered in April and ... down 87% from a year ago.

Now what

Meanwhile, Boeing's customers canceled orders for 18 more planes in May (including 14 MAXes), which won't help Boeing improve its deliveries much. And to top it all off, Reuters just reported that the airline industry as a whole is heading for an $84 billion annual loss this year, making 2020 "the worst year in the history of aviation," according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). 

Even with air travel starting to pick up, IATA estimates that when 2020 is over, air traffic will end up 29% below its 2019 peak. And if you think 2021 might be better, well ... it will, but only relative to an abysmal 2020. According to IATA, the airline industry will probably lose nearly $16 billion more next year.  

All of which adds up to: Less money for airlines to spend on Boeing airplanes, or for Boeing to spend buying airplane parts from GE and Spirit AeroSystems.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.