Boeing Blue737 Max 800

More Delay for 737 MAX Return, Boeing Warns

Jan. 22, 2020
Customers and suppliers are advised that FAA will not "unground" the troubled commercial jet program until mid 2020.

Boeing Co. cautioned its customers and suppliers that it now expects the Federal Aviation Administration to "unground" the 737 MAX by mid-2020, months later than earlier estimated. "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 explained in a statement.

More than 380 of the best-selling twin-engine jet have been grounded worldwide since March 2019, following two fatal crashes, in October 2018 and March 2019. Boeing suspended deliveries of 737 MAX jets (it has logged orders for more than 4,900 of the narrow-body aircraft since 2011), and this month it is halting production of new 737 MAXs, in view of its backlog of undelivered jets.

The crashes are attributed to a malfunction in the aircraft's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — an "anti-stall" software meant to counter aerodynamic effects of the larger engines installed in the 737 as part of its redesign.

A revised MCAS program is the basis for testing that Boeing is conducting now, in expectation of FAA's and other agencies' clearance to update the jets' flight-control programming. Other issues have emerged during the testing, including a different software malfunction reported this month, introducing new concerns about the scope of recertification and testing of the aircraft's airworthiness.

Boeing and FAA have clashed in recent weeks over claims of their respective culpability for failing to identify the MCAS defect during the pre-certification review, prior to the 2016 launch of the revamped 737. In announcing its new forecast for restarting the grounded jets, Boeing referred to "the rigorous scrutiny that regulatory authorities are rightly applying at every step of their review of the 737 MAX's flight control system".

Boeing promised to provide more detail on its efforts to return the 737 MAX to service in its pending Q1 financial disclosures.

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