American Airlines Pushes Boeing 737 MAX Return To April 2020

American Airlines has pushed the return to service of its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft back to April 2020. The airline says that, following ongoing communication with both the Federal Aviation Authority and Boeing, it does not expect the 737 MAX to return to service until April 7, 2020.

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX. Photo: American Airlines.

Just a couple of months ago, Simple Flying was reporting that American Airlines expected the 737 MAX to be back in service by mid-January 2020. This neatly aligned with Boeing’s position that, following test flights and recertification processes, the aircraft should be cleared to fly in US skies early in 2020.

American Airlines then canceled its 737 MAX services through to March 4, 2020. The airline now says it will update its schedules on December 22, 2019, to reflect these latest changes.

Most other US airlines with grounded 737 MAX aircraft have cleared the planes out of their schedules until March 2020. Whether affected airlines such as United and Southwest follow American’s lead in the coming days is yet to be seen.

Boeing says ten or eleven milestones to be overcome before re-certification

Boeing has just abandoned its goal of having the 737 MAX flying by early 2020 following news the FAA will not recertify the aircraft in time. The FAA’s administrator, Mr. Steve Dickson, told CNBC on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, that the 737 MAX still had ten or eleven “milestones” to overcome before the aircraft gets the okay to fly again.

“If you just do the math, it’s going to extend in 2020.”

The FAA’s statement to CNBC and Boeing’s admission that its January target would not be met is a further blow to the 737 MAX program. Just one month ago, Boeing was expecting the 737 MAX to be recertified by the FAA within weeks. At the time, according to a report by Tom Boon in Simple Flying, Boeing said that had five issues to deal with prior to re-certification.

Boeing, 737 MAX, FAA
The comments were made by FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. Photo: Public Domain

Those issues included a multi-day simulator session with the FAA, a workload evaluation of pilots in a 737 MAX simulator, FAA certification test flights, a provision of final software to the FAA and more simulator work.

But judging by what the FAA’s Steve Dickson had to say on Wednesday, Boeing may have underestimated the FAA’s expectations and requirements.

Uncertainty continues

With the grounding of the 737 MAX now entering its tenth month, uncertainty about the aircraft’s future continues. Orders have slowed to a trickle. Only thirty 737 MAXs have been ordered in 2019. By way of comparison, Airbus has sold 725 A320 aircraft throughout 2019.

Come April. American’s 737 MAXs will have been grounded for over a year. Photo: Richard Silagi via Wikimedia Commons.

Boeing has admitted that the 737 MAX grounding is having a big impact on its bottom line. Earlier in December, a letter from Boeing to the SEC was publicly released. In that letter, Boeing warned that it may need to reduce the production or even suspend the manufacture of the 737 MAX.

Should manufacture of the aircraft be suspended, many will raise the possibility of it never restarting again.

Today’s announcement by American Airlines was with little fanfare. Pushing back the re-introduction of the 737 MAX has almost become the new norm. By now, airlines have well established and tested procedures in place and it’s almost business as usual.