Boeing Co. will not seek airworthiness certifications on the next two models of its 737 MAX series jets until long after the December 31 federal deadline for adopting an Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System (EICAS.) The Federal Aviation Administration will require such a system as a result of new regulations imposed by the U.S. in a December 2020 act implemented to strengthen FAA oversight of aircraft manufacturers after revelations that Boeing pressured inspectors to expedite their approval process, in order to speed the original certification of the 737 MAX, in 2017.
In comments to investors last week, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said the 737 MAX 7 would achieve FAA certification early next year, but he estimated the 737 MAX 10 would not be certified until late 2023 or early 2024. Previously, Deal said the MAX 7 would be certified by the end of 2022, and the MAX 10 during 2023.
Redesigning the 737 MAX flight controls could delay progress on two aircraft models that are already under construction, and further complicate Boeing’s cash-flow difficulties. The OEM endured considerable losses during a 19-month shutdown of the 737 MAX program, followed by pandemic-related loss of revenue.
The problems for the 737 MAX are ongoing, as Boeing has been blocked from delivering new aircraft to fulfill orders from China.
Most aircraft series include an EICAS function, but the 737 MAX is based on the previous-generation 737 series. The pilots’ confusion over cockpit alerts and inability to override flight control was among the issues cited by investigators of two crashes of 737 MAX jets, in October 2018 and March 2019.
It remains possible that legislators will create a 21-month (until 2024) waiver for Boeing to complete the certification process on the MAX 10 and MAX 7 before the EICAS requirement is enforced.
The 737 MAX 7 will seat 153-178 passengers and have a maximum range of 3,850 nautical miles. Boeing has booked 286 orders for the 737 MAX 7, 234 of which are from Southwest Airlines and the remaining 22 from WestJet. The 737 MAX 7 had been expected to begin commercial service during 2022, and although some of the aircraft have been spotted conducting test flights, the date of readiness is unknown.
The 737 MAX 10 will be the largest of Boeing’s narrow-body, 737 MAX series, carrying a maximum of 230 passengers and having a maximum range of 3,300 nautical miles. Boeing has logged over 850 orders for the MAX 10, including from major carriers like United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.