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Four U.S. airlines pull brand-new Boeing 737 MAX jets for "potential electrical issue"

A "potential electrical issue" has forced major airlines to remove dozens of newly delivered 737 Max aircraft from service, CBS News has confirmed, a move that could result in a slew of canceled flights.

The disruption comes in response to an announcement from Boeing this morning. The Seattle-based manufacturer recommends all 16 customers possessing "a specific group of 737 Max airplanes" with "specific tail numbers" address the problem before operating the aircraft. Boeing tells CBS News the problem was "discovered on a production plane" during manufacturing. In a statement to CBS News, the FAA confirmed it received word from Boeing Thursday night that an electrical complication could impact a "backup power control unit."

"This potential issue was discovered on a production airplane during normal build activity," the company said in a statement. "We are informing our customers of specific tail numbers affected and our team is also addressing the issue with undelivered airplanes that are impacted."

It's the latest challenge for the manufacturer and its 737 Max, which was banned for 20 months by the Federal Aviation Administration after two crashes within five months killed 346 people. An automated flight control feature, called MCAS, was blamed for the crashes, which brought intense scrutiny of the new model. The U.S. ban was lifted in November.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Friday the FAA is closely monitoring the problem.

"My understanding is that this is different from any of those other issues, and obviously that we need to make sure that there's full confidence before these specific aircraft return to the air," Buttigieg said in response to a reporter's question during a White House briefing.

Boeing said Friday the potential electrical issue is separate and unrelated to MCAS, and not all 737 Max planes are affected. These planes were not in use before the grounding and ban.

All four U.S. carriers that fly the plane are affected. Southwest is removing 30 aircraft from its schedule, while American Airlines is removing 17. United said 16 of its 737 Max planes are now out of rotation. Alaska, which just acquired their MAXs earlier this year and began flying them last month, has pulled four from service for inspection and repair work.

Brandi Kellam contributed to this report.

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