As the grounding of the 737 MAX drags on, Boeing is holding discussions today about whether to stop producing the type entirely for a while. The FAA now doesn’t anticipate lifting the ban before the new year, with a warning that it could take until March to approve the beleaguered aircraft.
Boeing is reportedly considering halting production of the 737 MAX, following the FAA’s announcement that it would not be approving its return to service before the new year. Boeing abandoned its goal to have the aircraft certified this month last Thursday, as the regulator stated there was still too much to do.
Despite a scaling back of production rates by 20% following the initial grounding of the plane, Boeing has struggled to find places to park the 42 per month it continues to produce. The planemaker had previously anticipated a marked ramp-up in production after the new year, as it had assumed the type would be back in action. Now, it seems it is considering stopping manufacture altogether.
In a statement issued yesterday, Boeing said it “will continue to assess production decisions based on the timing and conditions of return to service, which will be based on regulatory approvals and may vary by jurisdiction.”
Boeing is holding a two-day meeting in Chicago that began yesterday. The company will be discussing this issue in detail and is expected to make an announcement later today.
Boeing previously lowered output as the grounding dragged on, but is now considering halting production altogether until the ban is lifted. Muilenburg is reported by CNBC as having said this could turn out to be ‘more efficient’ than lowering the output again.
A dozen milestones to complete
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson met with Boeing’s chief Dennis Muilenburg last week to discuss the progress on the MAX. Dickson said at the time that the FAA had no intention of clearing the type to fly before 2020 and that there was much still to be done before this would happen.
Mr. Dickson stated that as many as a dozen milestones needed to be completed before the MAX could be cleared to fly. As well as this, the FAA is conducting an ongoing investigation into production issues at the 737 factory in Renton, Washington.
Altogether, the FAA has advised that it doesn’t foresee the MAX returning to service before February 2020 and has warned that this might stretch into March. This would make the 737 grounding almost a year long, and would be the longest grounding of any US-built aircraft in history.
The FAA is reported by Reuters to have told congressional staff in an email last week that Dickson is “concerned that Boeing continues to pursue a return-to-service schedule that is not realistic… More concerning, the administrator wants to directly address the perception that some of Boeing’s public statements have been designed to force FAA into taking quicker action.”
Clearly, the FAA will not have its hand forced and is not going to be swayed by Boeing’s threat of halting production. Future fliers of the type should take solace in the fact that the regulator is going to be fine-tooth combing this aircraft before any flights are allowed once more.