Boeing closing in on returning troubled 737 Max to the sky
The flight by Federal Aviation Administration pilots to certify that the plane meets safety regulations is one of the critical remaining milestones. However, the people cautioned that the date hasn’t been finalised and has shifted repeatedly as Boeing completed its final work for regulators.
Boeing’s goal has been to return the 737 Max, a critical source of revenue, to commercial service in the third quarter. The company restarted manufacturing the single-aisle jet late last month, ending a five-month halt to work in its 737 factory in the Seattle suburb of Renton, Washington.
Boeing pared a decline on the news, closing 6.1 per cent lower in New York after dropping as much as 8.9 per cent amid a broader market slump. The company’s shares were down 37 per cent this year through Tuesday, while the S&P 500 slipped 1.1 per cent.
The company is revising a software system implicated in the two crashes that repeatedly drove down the noses of the jets due to a malfunction. Reviews of the plane’s safety following its March 13, 2019, grounding also discovered additional flaws that needed upgrading, including its flight-control computer, how electrical wires were bundled and software issues.
The FAA on Wednesday said it won’t approve the plane for passenger service until it is satisfied that all safety-related issues have been addressed.
“The FAA is in regular contact with Boeing as the company continues its work on the 737 Max,” the agency said in a statement. “The manufacturer must demonstrate compliance with all certification standards.”
Boeing declined to comment on the latest actions.
The FAA is broadly reviewing how it assesses pilot performance during malfunctions as a result of the crashes. A international panel of pilots known as the Joint Operations Evaluation Board must also review changes to the plane.
If all goes as planned, the jet will return to a market far different from that of March 2019, when regulators halted Max flying. A global pandemic has plunged the travel industry into its sharpest downturn on record, and many customers who were clamouring for the Max just months ago are now fighting for survival.
Boeing late last year discovered that there was a remote potential for wires within the same bundles on the jet to short-circuit in a way that could raise or lower the nose without a command by the pilots. As a result, it doesn’t meet aviation safety regulations.
After the FAA rejected the company’s initial suggestion that the wiring didn’t need repairing, Boeing has been reworking wiring on the 450-odd jets it had built but never delivered during the grounding. It began sending a service bulletin describing how to repair the wiring to airlines on Wednesday.