Boeing 737 Max grounded until mid-2020

Boeing 737 Max grounded until mid-2020
RENTON, WA – AUGUST 13: Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen parked on Boeing property near Boeing Field on August 13, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, Boeing, is not expecting its 737 Max planes to return to service until at least June or July 2020. “We are informing our customers and suppliers that we are currently estimating that the ungrounding of the 737 Max will begin during mid-2020.

This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process. It is subject to our ongoing attempts to address known schedule risks and further developments that may arise in connection with the certification process,” Boeing said in a statement on January 21.

The extended delay will affect most northern-hemisphere airlines that would have to endure a second peak flying season without the 737 Max planes, as the summer is the most popular season for the airline industry.

The United States recorded 257.4 million passengers between June 1 and the end of August in 2019 – a 3.4% increase from the previous year – as a result of the strong economy and job market, according to CNBC.

Regulators’ response

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement on January 21 that it is not clear when the plane will be given the green light to return to service. “The agency is following a thorough, deliberate process to verify that all proposed modifications to the Boeing 737 Max meet the highest certification standards,” the FAA statement reads.

“We continue to work with other safety regulators to review Boeing’s work as the company conducts the required safety assessments and addresses all issues that arise during testing.”

Regulators grounded the planes in March 2019 after two fatal 737 Max crashes took place the previous year – one in Ethiopia in March 2018 and another in Indonesia in October 2018, which killed a total of 346 people.

The flight control system aboard the planes was implicated in both crashes. The flight crew’s unfamiliarity with a new flight-control feature that had malfunctioned allegedly caused the planes to crash in both incidents.

Additional pilot training

Lion Air, the airline involved in the Indonesia crash, had requested pilot simulator training before flying the 737 Max jet in 2017 but Boeing rejected the idea, deeming it unnecessary. The company had long insisted that computer-based training was sufficient for pilots to fly its new planes.

However, Boeing now recommends 737 Max flight simulator training for pilots. “Boeing is recommending 737 Max simulator training in addition to computer-based training for all Max pilots prior to return to service of the 737 Max. This recommendation takes into account our unstinting commitment to the safe return of service as well as changes to the airplane and test results. Final determination will be established by the regulators,” said Boeing in a statement on January 7.