58,000 Hours Of Work Required to Bring All Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft Back Into Service

There’s some optimism that the 737 MAX could be back in the air in the near future. But news coming out of the United States in the last week suggests this optimism could be misplaced.

In the latest of a series of dispatches about the 737 MAX, Reuters reports it is going to take up to 150 hours of work to get each grounded 737 MAX back in the air. With 387 aircraft sitting idle around the world, that’s 58,000 hours. This figure does not include pilot training.

Each grounded aircraft needs to be checked, its fluids changed, engines tested, and the new software fix uploaded and run through, presumably very thoroughly. It will be a time consuming and expensive process.

58,000 hours of work required to bring all boeing 737 max aircraft back into service
Boeing’s 737 Max remains grounded. Photo : Boeing

At the time of writing, Boeing has shown its software fix to the FAA and other aviation regulatory bodies, but the software has not been formally submitted for approval. Despite this, there has been some optimism that the 737 MAX could be back in the air in the USA by the end of June.

The FAA faces criticism

The FAA has faced strong criticism for its handling of the 737 MAX’s grounding. This is in addition to questions surrounding the initial certification of the aircraft. However, the FAA’s Acting Administrator, Dan Elwell, remains confident that the grounding will end sooner rather than later. However, he declines to lay out a timetable for the ban being lifted.

Airlines are keen for Boeing to resolve issues affecting the troubled aircraft, with some CEO’s publicly stating their confidence in the MAX .

A factor impeding a swift decision to lift the grounding is whether the FAA rushed the initial certification process in the first place. This is currently under investigation by the US Congress and Department of Transport.

58,000 hours of work required to bring all boeing 737 max aircraft back into service
Icelandair is one of many airlines forced to ground the 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

Some have questioned whether an under-resourced FAA gave Boeing too much leeway when first certifying the 737 MAX. The Economist reports that steps in the certification process was often lead by Boeing, who were also able to sign off on many of the MAX’s safety features.

When the 737 MAX was first certified, nearly a decade ago, Boeing was facing intense competition from rival Airbus. The European manufacturer had started producing the A320neo, a more fuel efficient aircraft than the 737. Boeing was under competitive and financial pressure, and questions are being raised about whether the certification process for the 737 MAX was rushed in order to fight back against Airbus.

It is critical for Boeing to get their MAX’s back in the air as soon as possible. They are frequently meeting with customer airlines and aviation bodies, putting considerable work into ensuring the MAX’s supply chain can immediately provide the parts needed to smooth the aircraft’s return to the skies. But some carriers are starting to pursue compensation claims with Boeing, further increasing the pressure on the manufacturer.

It’s not only the FAA that needs to be satisfied

The challenges involved in getting the 737 MAX back in the air are not limited to just making the planes ready for service. Passengers, airlines and crew all need to be confident in the aircraft too.

Even if the FAA do lift the grounding in the near future, there is no guarantee other aviation authorities will simply follow their lead. The majority (80%) of the world’s 737 MAX’s fly outside the USA, beyond the scope of the FAA.

58,000 hours of work required to bring all boeing 737 max aircraft back into service
flydubai’s 737 MAX aircraft are subject to their own country’s regulatory authorities. Photo: flydubai

Other aviation regulatory bodies will want to make their own decisions. While there is a history of cooperation with the FAA, questions surrounding the efficacy of the US regulator in certifying the MAX have changed the landscape. Instead of taking their word for it, other nations’ authorities will want to perform their own tests to be completely satisfied it is safe to fly.

Boeing not only has to satisfy the FAA, but also regulatory authorities in every nation in which the 737 MAX operates. In the wake of two fatal crashes and with questions surrounding the FAA, this may not be simple. 

Only when the 737 MAX is cleared to fly again will the time consuming process of re-entering the 737 MAX’s into service begin. For Boeing and the airlines, that moment cannot come soon enough.

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Bob Braan

The safest thing is to just avoid the 737 Max. I usually fly Delta. They don’t have any 737 Max aircraft. Google “Southwest Airlines is going to allow people who don’t want to fly on the Boeing 737 Max to switch planes for free”. Hopefully all other airlines allow passengers to avoid the 737 Max for free as well. If passengers refuse to board the 737 Max it will go away. Chopped up for scrap. Unable to kill any more customers. Both Boeing and the FAA said the plane was safe originally and also safe after almost every other country… Read more »

Old Stick

Until the cause of the MCAS failures is known, the software update for the B737 MAX is just a work-around. Yes, the AoA probes passed erroneous data to the MCAS regulator, but why? What was wrong with the AoA probes or the data transfer between the AoA probes and electronic regulators in the aircraft? Until the actual cause of the failures is known, then the B737 MAX should not fly again. Ever since Boeing decided to produce the 737 MAX instead of waiting for the 797 to be developed, the line from production to sale and implementation of the 737… Read more »

Matthew O'Brien

Southwest is cancelling flights at a historic rate, but it is NOT flights operated by the MAX. Instead of something so simple and predictable, they are actually cancelled flights on any of their models of jets in order to free those jets to fill in another route. And they appear to be doing it the day of the scheduled flight, inconveniencing their passengers to the MAX. We had months-old tickets to fly Southwest from San Jose CA to San Diego CA to Albuquerque NM. At 3:30 AM the day of the flight, Southwest cancelled the San Jose to San Diego… Read more »

Joe Blo

What about adding the redundant sensors?

Software is not the only problem.


I suspect it will take a much longer time for customers to “trust” the MAX again, if ever. Airlines will be facing customer conflicts for some time if and when these jets get back in the air.

Ravioliollie Kaye

It is very easy to see the neglect on Boeing’s part. No product to compete with AB. Completely change the flight characteristics and then uh oh, after realizing this blunder fabricate a rush to market of the MCAS device. Failure to notify all airlines about this band aid killed over 350 people. I for one will never ever step onto a MAX regardless of the outcome. Criminal charges should be levied against the Boeing top management for this outrageous cover up.