Boeing To Hire More Staff To Help Deliver 737 MAX Backlog

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The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded for just over six months. With plans underway to get the aircraft back in the sky, Boeing has been making provisions to deliver the hundreds of late 737 MAX aircraft currently sitting in carparks around their Washington state factory.

737 MAX grounded
Grounded MAXs near Boeing Field. Photo: SounderBruce / Wikimedia Commons

One such move is to hire more staff to inspect and prepare the grounded 737 MAX aircraft for delivery, according to ATW Online.

What are the details?

Boeing has a large backlog of 737 MAX aircraft that it needs to be able to deliver rapidly to customers, some of whom have been waiting years for their new aircraft.

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The aircraft builder is currently storing a fleet of undelivered 737 MAX aircraft at the nearby Moses Lake’s Grant County Airport. They plan to ramp up the amount of staff on-site when they have final approval to fly the aircraft, to ensure that they can deliver as many 737 aircraft as possible. According to the published source, Boeing plans to increase this workforce by a ‘few hundred’ to get the job done.

It is likely that, if this plan is successful, Boeing will then increase staff at other delivery sites. But this plan will not be without issues.

Boeing 737 MAX Fund
Airlines have had to make alternative plans while the Boeing 737 MAX is grounded. Photo: Boeing

What is Boeing’s plan to deliver the late 737 MAX aircraft?

The CEO of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg, touched on these issues at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference on May 29th, where he said,

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“It’s a really individual customer-by-customer and individual airplane-by-airplane. So today, we have field service teams that are out deployed with every single one of the airplanes that are out in the field. We’re going to treat the return to service as an entry into service event. So each airplane by tail number will get individual attention with individual customers tailored to the condition of that particular airplane, how it’s been stored, where it’s been stored, the condition of operation. So we have at that very specific level of detail. So one is, is a clear understanding – attention to detail at the airplane level.

“Secondly, this will be governed by the regulatory authorities when we get approval to get back up to flight. Our hope is that we’ll have a broad international alignment with the FAA, but there may be some international authorities that will operate on a different schedule. So we’ll have to tailor our plans depending on regulatory approval to get the airplane back up and flying.

“And then our customers are also working through their flight schedules. Obviously, we’ve affected summer flight schedules for many, and we regret that. It’s something that we’re discussing with a number of our airline customers. We know that’s painful for them. Some of them, as a result, will want to move airplane deliveries out. We’ve had other customers who said they’d like the airplanes earlier, they need lift sooner, so they’d like to accelerate in the skyline.

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“So we’re looking at it through all of those dimensions. It’s really health of each airplane, regulatory approvals, and individual customer fleet planning and squaring off that equation, so that we manage our skyline to the benefit of our customers. So that is a very active daily discussion. I would expect to see skyline movement, both some airplanes moving out, other airplanes moving forward as we accommodate different customer needs.”

Alaska Boeing 737 MAX
Alaska expected one MAX to be delivered by now, and another two by the end of the year. Image: Boeing

What is the timeline for 737 MAX deliveries?

The Boeing CEO also touched on the actual timeline for these deliveries at the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 26th, 2019, saying,

“It’s a timeline that varies for each airline. But just to give you a sense of it, we have about 385 MAXes that we’ve previously delivered to airlines that are currently grounded. We’ve also been continuing to build airplanes in our factory in Renton at a rate of 42 a month so we have a hundred to 150 additional airplanes that have been built but not yet delivered to customers. So if you add those all together it’s more than 500 airplanes that we want to get back into service with our customers.

“And our approach to this is what we call entry-into-service approach. In other words, each airplane, each individual airplane has a team assigned to it working hand in hand with our customers. And depending on those airplanes and how our customers want to ramp them back up, it could be, you know, measured in days or weeks for each airplane. And processing through 500 airplanes will take some time. And so that’s the phased ramp-up. Most importantly again, we’re going to be very focused on safety and helping our customers get the fleet back up and operating in a safe manner.”

What do you think? Will Boeing be able to deliver all these 737 MAX aircraft quickly and to their customers’ satisfaction? Let us know in the comments.

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Nigel

This might turn out to be a question of counting your chickens before they hatch 😉
I was recently reading a whistleblower account from a Boeing engineer about how there was pressure to categorize the worst-case failure mode of MCAS as “severe” rather than “catastrophic”; the latter would have been disadvantageous to Boeing because it would then have been mandatory to use input from 3 AOA sensors, whereas the 737 only has 2 AOA sensors. We’re now 2 crashes further, and it’s pretty obvious that the worst-case failure mode of MCAS is indeed “catastrophic”. Boeing will get a nasty headache if (foreign) regulators require them to fit and utilize a third AOA sensor! And what about retrofitting all those parked birds…that will be a drama! Maybe that’s why they need all that extra personnel 😉
Another whistleblower account described how metallic debris (such as metal shavings) in produced planes were suspected of being able to cause AOA sensor failure, by causing short-circuits. So it’s not just the Dreadliners in Charleston and the KC-46 tankers that have a debris problem. Maybe the new personnel are going to be disassembling and cleaning each airframe with vacuum cleaners 😉

Frank

“Secondly, this will be governed by the regulatory authorities when we get approval to get back up to flight. Our hope is that we’ll have a broad international alignment with the FAA, but there may be some international authorities that will operate on a different schedule. So we’ll have to tailor our plans depending on regulatory approval to get the airplane back up and flying.”

Read: The FAA is willing to go it alone and re-certify the aircraft, using US passengers as guinea pigs, while the rest of the world waits and watches. It’s those planes (US based) that we will get back up and flying, first…

Atlas

And how about upgrading mcas and maybe adding a third sensor?
Or whatever findings faa and easa will require from boeing?
And that special order alarm that mcas is trying to do something, which not all airlines have?
I really dont think it will be just about the delivering of the planes.
They have to be upgraded first, and that will probably be not as easy.

Shapes

Silly question, but how and when will these “new” employees be trained and certified to work on these planes?
Surely they would need to be familiar with the aircraft type?

Omer

I take issue with the almost unanimous assumption that this plane WILL be ungrounded sooner or later. This plane has an inherent, physical flaw: its engines affect the aerodynamics of the plane in a manner that gets it to tend to stall. Boeing “solved” this problem by putting a band-aid on it – a software that will fight the tendency of the plane to stall by pushing in the opposite direction. Common sense tells us that the safest solution would have been to alter the physical properties of the plane so that it doesn’t have the tendency to stall to begin with. But that’s an expensive solution, so Boeing went for the cheap software fix and ended up killing 346 people because the software was overshooting. Fixing the tendency of the software to overshoot, however, doesn’t change the fact that the plane has an inherent tendency to stall, as opposed to e.g. its predecessor (737NG) or its rival (A320).

Nigel

Look at what I found on Reuters: it seems that Dollar Dennis is VERY (perhaps overly?) optimistic about the MAX’s return to service:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-boeing-airplane-737-production-exclus/exclusive-boeing-grappling-with-uneven-737-supply-chain-targets-52-month-in-february-sources-idUSKCN1VC1YM

Nigel

And another interesting item om Reuters:
The FAA is insisting on exposing a group of relatively inexperienced MAX pilots to the new MCAS software (in a simulator), to see how they handle various scenarios.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-airplane-faa-boeing/faa-plans-to-test-boeing-max-software-on-less-experienced-pilots-sources-idUSKCN1VC28R