The Year The MAX Returned – How 2020 Looked For Boeing

2020 has proved a hugely challenging year for the airline industry. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has impacted every level of commercial aviation. From airlines and aircraft manufacturers to passengers themselves, almost nothing has remained untouched by these unprecedented circumstances. And yet, for Boeing, there have still been some reasons to be cheerful.

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Boeing has made progress on the 737 MAX and 777X despite the challenges that 2020 has thrown at the aviation industry. Photo: Getty Images

The 777X finally takes to the skies

2020 began on a promising note for Boeing. After months of delays, it had scheduled the first test flight for the American manufacturer’s new 777X aircraft for January 23rd. Unfortunately, this had to be postponed on two consecutive days due to inclement weather conditions.

However, on January 25th, the test aircraft finally took off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington. This represented a significant milestone for the next-generation 777 variant, known for innovative features such as its folding wingtips. A second 777X completed its first test flight on April 30th, with the third example following on August 3rd.

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The Boeing 777X’s folding wingtips can be seen in action here. Photo: Getty Images

Return of the MAX

The other big story for Boeing this year has been the ongoing recertification process for its infamous Boeing 737 MAX. It reached a significant milestone in late June, when it completed 10 hours of test flights following safety modifications to the type.

Much like the MAX’s initial groundings, it will be recertified by the relevant safety agencies of individual countries or regions, rather than on a blanket, worldwide basis. The first to do so was the American FAA, which granted the type recertification for commercial service in the USA on November 18th. A week later, Brazil’s ANAC became the second aviation safety agency to recertify the MAX, doing so on November 25th.

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GOL operated the first post-recertification commercial 737 MAX flight. Photo: Getty Images

Two weeks later, the country was home to the first commercial service operated by a MAX series aircraft since recertification. On December 9th, Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL operated flight G34104 between São Paulo and Porto Alegre with a 737 MAX 8 registered as PR-XMB.

On December 18th, three days ahead of schedule, Aeromexico also resumed its 737 MAX services. The aircraft is yet to be recertified in Europe, but its future there is bright, with Ryanair having placed the type’s biggest order this year, totaling 75 additional aircraft.

Lots still to do

It is important to remember that, of course, 2020 has not been a perfect year for Boeing. In July, it announced that it had made a $2.4 billion loss in the year’s second quarter. At the same time, it confirmed that it would be delaying the first 777X deliveries until 2022.

The Year The MAX Returned – How 2020 Looked For Boeing
Following the type’s 20-month grounding, Boeing has a backlog of some 450 completed MAXs which are yet to be delivered. Photo: Getty Images

Going forward, Boeing has a backlog of around 450 737 MAX aircraft to deliver, which had built up during the aircraft’s grounding period. The American manufacturer expects to deliver half of these in 2021, with the remainder following in 2022. Nonetheless, Boeing appears to have done relatively well in making the progress that it has with the 777X and the MAX this year, given the challenging and unprecedented circumstances that have faced the industry as a whole.

How do you see Boeing performing in 2021? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.