Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson testified on Wednesday May 12 that Boeing’s 737 MAX has performed well since it was cleared to resume commercial service in December 2020, and he expressed confidence in the safety of those jets. "It is performing as well or better overall than any other airplane out there in the aviation system right now," Dickson told the U.S. House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee.
The FAA administrator further reported that electrical grounding problems on certain 737 MAX jets are being studied to determine how the issue was introduced to Boeing’s manufacturing process, and to make identify if there are any further implications to the problem.
Boeing reported the existence of an electrical problem on some new 737 MAX jets in early April, and then suspended deliveries of the aircraft later last month after FAA warned the issue "could affect the operation of certain systems, including engine ice protection, and result in loss of critical functions and/or multiple simultaneous flight deck effects, which may prevent continued safe flight and landing."
Boeing initially issued a maintenance recommendation to operators, advising them to verify “that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system.” A “ground path” refers to an aircraft’s electrical circuits and their reliability or safety within the larger aircraft operation and flight-control systems.
Boeing also described the problem as “a production issue” that is unrelated to the 737 MAX flight-control system, the primary cause of the two crashes that led to the 737 MAX program grounding from March 2019 to December 2020.
FAA has said the electrical problem affects 109 aircraft operated by carriers around the world, including 71 aircraft operated by U.S. carriers. Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines – three of the largest 737 MAX operators – have each indicated that they had removed affected 737 MAX jets from service.
Boeing has not yet advised 737 MAX operators how to fix the electrical problem, and it has been reported that FAA is seeking new data describing how the issue may have further effects on aircraft operation.