Boeing 737 Max Grounding

Boeing’s bestseller on the stockpile – one year 737 Max grounding (Part 1)

Reiner Hertl
13.03.2020
5 minutes

Now in the middle of March, the worldwide flight ban for the crisis jet has its one year anniversary; its production stop came in January. And this is also the biggest production interruption for the US aircraft manufacturer in 20 years. Until this best-selling aircraft type takes off again – mid 2020? – a lot will remain on the ground. A brief chronicle.

Boeing in trouble and the model withdrawn from service

The 737 Max has not received permission to take off since March 2019. A ban was also imposed worldwide since 346 people died in two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Faulty control software (MCAS) is considered the main cause of the accidents of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines. And fed the suspicion that the 737 Max was launched too hastily in the face of competitive pressure – for the quarterly figures. Boeing denied this, but admitted to errors:

If we had known then what we know now, we would have made a different decision.

Dennis Muilenburg – Then and now resigned Chief Executive Office of Boeing at a hearing on Capitol Hill in November 2019
Boeing 737 MAX - Causes
Boeing 737 Max

Tensions with the FAA – which as a regulator is also under criticism and pressure

On the one hand, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also has to deal with the criticism that it was too hesitant to initiate the flight ban after the first plane crash. On the other hand, it must refuse to accept the pressure that the then Boeing boss Muilenburg might have tried to exert with public statements on the soon to be re-certified 737 Max. Until FAA head Steve Dickson prohibited Boeing from making further statements on this matter in December 2019. The American Department of Transportation is also to review the FAA’s training requirements for the 737 pilots as part of the re-certification of the Boeing 737 Max. Simulator training for the Max pilots will be difficult, as there is only a limited number of simulators available for the 737 Max. Boeing only decided that simulator training is necessary for all Boeing 737 Max pilots at the beginning of the year.

And almost a year after the second crash, just now, at the beginning of March, an investigative committee of the US Congress on the Boeing 737 Max has made serious accusations and vehement accusations in a preliminary investigation report: both against Boeing and against the FAA. The former is accused of a lack of transparency, among other things. The latter had failed in its duty to identify crucial safety problems during the certification of the aircraft.

The FAA, for its part, is asking Boeing to pay a million-dollar fine because the 737 series jets appear to have been fitted with sensors which had not yet been certified.

Let us recapitulate and reconstruct once again: with a look back at the 737 main plant in Renton in Seattle, where 12,000 employees work. And where the produced, waiting Max’s are even already piled up in employee parking lots, waiting in line. These pictures also went around the world.

In this video you can see aerial shots of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft grounded on the Boeing field in Seattle:

Parked and serviced, the nearly 400 brand-new planes

It’s not just the lack of space in Renton. All aircraft still manufactured before the production stop are continuously inspected. The MRO department (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) is constantly on duty for the temporarily stored aircraft. New problems that need to be solved are constantly cropping up. First a potential problem in the cabling. Then, recently in February, foreign objects were found in the fuel tanks of some machines. What Boeing’s 737 production manager Mark Jenks apostrophized as “absolutely unacceptable” and updated operational procedures accordingly.

While the Max is landing, many hopes are now pinned on the world’s largest twin-engine aircraft. The plane that was originally scheduled to fly in the summer of 2019, but did not start before January 2020 – and on which customers rely:

New hope Boeing 777x, the Boeing 737 Max crisis becomes a burden

WingMag had already reported about the maiden flight of the successor model of the Boeing 777 in January. And the model of the next generation and superlatives is profoundly portrayed, also in connection with the breaking test. Launch customers like Lufthansa or Emirates still have to be patient – Boeing has postponed the first deliveries until 2021. Hundreds of orders have already been received.

Boeing 777-9X
Boeing 777-9X above the clouds

While the Group’s commercial aircraft division was unable to book a single order throughout January 2020, according to the notification. The most sought-after model, the Boeing 737 Max, which has meanwhile gone from bestseller to burden, has orders in the four-digit range: around 5,000 737 Max aircraft were ordered by 107 customers.

In total, however, Boeing has now had to relinquish the title of world market leader to its European rival Airbus – for the first time since 2011. But can Airbus really benefit from this?

The effects of grounding – how the crisis is making waves

In the second part of our article (coming soon) on a whole year of Boeing 737 Max take-off bans, we summarize and reconstruct further: What effects has grounding had and still has on suppliers, the Boeing supply chain? On airlines, on the aviation industry as a whole, on passengers and pilots? And specifically also on the Boeing Group itself and its workforce. And with what measures and efforts has it been possible to win back lost trust? The confidence of the supervisory authorities, the confidence of the supply chains and the confidence of the passengers. Boeing made a great deal of progress in this Max grounding year. And will have to make even greater efforts. Until the 737 Max regains momentum and takes off.

Cover picture © Wikimedia Commons SounderBruce

by Reiner Hertl

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