Boeing Commercial Airplanes has taken an order valued at more than $24 billion from International Airlines Group, a holding company, for 200 of its 737 MAX narrow-body aircraft. The high-profile order was announced by Boeing and its customer with a letter of intent at the biannual Paris Air Show.
One of the world's largest airline groups announced today it plans to build its future fleet with the International Airlines Group (IAG) is the parent company for Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and LEVEL, and its single-aisle aircraft are mainly Airbus A320 series jets. However, IAG operates a significant number of Boeing twin-aisle aircraft, including the 777 and 787 Dreamliner, and recently placed a firm order for the new 777X long-range aircraft.
"We're very pleased to sign this letter of intent with Boeing and are certain that these aircraft will be a great addition to IAG's short-haul fleet," stated IAG chief executive Willie Walsh. "We have every confidence in Boeing and expect that the aircraft will make a successful return to service in the coming months having received approval from the regulators."
The vote of confidence is notable because despite its being the best-selling aircraft in Boeing’s history, the 737 program is currently idle and all deliveries have been put on hold as Boeing works to resolve a flight-control programming defect that is responsible for two fatal jet crashes in the past year.
The Boeing 737 MAX was involved in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March and a Lion Air crash in October 2018 crash, which killed a total of 346 passengers and crew members. Boeing halted assembly and delivery on the aircraft series (for which it has an order backlog of more than 4,600 aircraft), and the Federal Aviation Administration, European Air Safety Administration, and other civil aviation regulators, as well as commercial airlines, have suspended the aircraft from service.
Boeing has concluded the crashes were caused by a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), also known as "anti-stall" software, developed to off-set a side-effect of the more fuel-efficient engines adopted for the new version of the 737: because of the engines’ larger size, the planes’ aerodynamic behavior is altered, and the MCAS is meant to counteract a stalling tendency.
But, it’s been determined that in the two crashes the MCAS software responded to inaccurate flight data and sent the two planes into nose dives that the crews were unable to reverse.
Boeing has developed a software patch to correct the situation, and has completed numerous test flights of the 737 MAX with the updated MCAS, testing different in-flight scenarios.
It’s been reported that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has approved the new software, but recently an FAA official stated it may be late this year before it approves the 737 MAX to resume service. EASA and the other regulatory agencies, as well as individual airline, also would have to take steps to restore the aircraft to commercial schedules.
"We are truly honored and humbled by the leadership at International Airlines Group for placing their trust and confidence in the 737 MAX and, ultimately, in the people of Boeing and our deep commitment to quality and safety above all else," stated Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Kevin McAllister.
As for IAG, Boeing reported that the order will include a combination of the 737 MAX 8 (seating up to 178 passengers) and the 737 MAX 10 jet (up to 230 passengers.) Boeing indicated that IAG would operate the new aircraft across its brands, including Vueling and LEVEL.