United States aircraft manufacturer Boeing continues to work on a solution for an electrical power system issue causing the grounding of 106 MAX planes. The grounding has seen three big US airlines, United, American, and Southwest, keep more than 60 jets out of the skies.
106 Boeing 737 MAXs grounded
Earlier this month, Boeing recommended 16 MAX operators look at a potential electrical issue before sending some specific 737 MAX planes back into the air. Boeing was unsure if a sufficient ground path existed for a component of the electrical power system.
Specifically, Boeing was concerned about the electrical grounding inside a backup power control system. Boeing said in a statement at the time;
“We are also informing our customers of specific tail numbers affected, and we will provide direction on appropriate corrective actions.”
In addition to the three impacted US airlines, Cayman Airways, Copa Airlines, GOL Linhas Aereas, Icelandair, Minsheng Leasing, Neos Air, Shandong Airlines, SilkAir, SpiceJet, Sunwing Airlines, TUI, Turkish Airlines, Valla Jets Limited, WestJet Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines have all grounded planes. All up, the problem affects 106 Boeing 737 MAXs. The majority, 71 planes, are aircraft registered in the United States.
FAA says Boeing continues to work on a solution
On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Boeing continued to work on a solution to the problem. The safety regulator also said “subsequent analysis and testing” showed the issue could involve additional systems. Systems flagged include the standby power control unit, a circuit breaker panel, and the main instrument panel.
In a formal notice to international air regulators, the FAA said it expected to soon issue an airworthiness directive outlining corrective action for relevant US-registered 737 MAXs. In a statement issued on Thursday, Boeing said;
“We concur with the FAA notice and continue to work closely with the regulator and our customers to address the issue.”
Reports suggest the big US carriers, while inconvenienced, are not overly concerned. The airlines say they know what the problem is. They know what needs to be done about it, and how swiftly it can get fixed. They expect to have their grounded MAXs back in the air reasonably quickly.
Boeing’s current electrical power system issue is unconnected to problems that saw the MAX grounded worldwide across most of 2019 and 2020. The FAA says the current grounding “is not related to recertification of the flight control system on the 737 MAX, ungrounding of the aircraft, or its return to service.”
US Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General to audit FAA – again
That has not stopped the US Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General earlier this week confirming it would audit the FAA’s decision to unground the 737 MAX last year. The Inspector General’s office has previously cast its eye over the FAA’s management and certification of the 737 MAX program. Now, the accountability and integrity watchdog is going back for another look.
This audit will examine FAA’s actions following each of the two Boeing 737 MAX
accidents, including the grounding of the aircraft and its recertification. Matthew Hampton, Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits, says in a heads-up memo to the FAA on Tuesday.
“Our audit objective is to evaluate FAA’s processes and procedures for grounding
aircraft and implementing corrective actions.”
In response, the FAA said it would co-operate with the Inspector General’s audit, as it has done on previous occasions.
Meanwhile, the relative nonchalance among the big US airlines impacted by the current grounding provides the best timeline regarding the resolution of the electrical power system problems. Unlike the last mass grounding, this smaller aircraft-specific grounding may be for a matter of weeks.