Boeing Commercial Airplanes resumed production of its 737 MAX narrow-body aircraft at Renton, Wash., on Wednesday, May 27. The OEM said it restarted assembly for the aircraft at an unspecified "low rate", while implementing numerous workplace safety and product quality initiatives. It added that the 737 program will ramp-up production gradually through the remainder of this year, though it did not indicate its target production rate.
The 737 MAX is a twin-engine, narrow-body aircraft that Boeing introduced in 2017, but that has been idled worldwide since March 2019, following two crashes that killed a total of 346 passengers and crew members, in October 2018 and March 2019. Both crashes were attributed to defective flight-control software that prevented pilots from controlling the planes' acceleration.
737 MAX production was halted in January, having continued through the preceding 10 months to complete production for over 4,900 737 MAX jets on its order book. Though new aircraft deliveries were on hold during those months, Boeing worked to correct errors in the flight-control software and other details that emerged during the design review process.
More than 340 of the twin-engine jets are idled around the world, as carriers wait to incorporate the software revisions and some other design corrections identified during the course of the 737 MAX program revision. The Federal Aviation Administration, European Air Safety Administration, and other agencies have not yet cleared the 737 MAX to resume commercial service.
Boeing halted all production at its Seattle-area plants in late March, in the effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. It resumed most operations in April, but the 737 MAX program remained shut-down due to the January idling.
The manufacturer noted that during since January, mechanics and engineers worked to refine and standardize work packages for the 737 MAX at each position of the Renton assembly plant.
“We’ve been on a continuous journey to evolve our production system and make it even stronger,” stated Walt Odisho, 737 program vice president and general manager. “These initiatives are the next step in creating the optimal build environment for the 737 MAX.”
“The steps we’ve taken in the factory will help drive our goal of 100% quality for our customers while supporting our ongoing commitment to workplace safety,” added Scott Stocker, v.p. of 737 Manufacturing.