The Boeing 737 MAX is one of the most praised and also the criticized aircraft ever built. On one hand, it has been popular with airlines with plenty of orders for the American planemaker. However, since being grounded many airlines have become nervous about utilizing the type. How can Boeing move forward?
What is the problem with the Boeing 737 MAX?
As mentioned in the introduction, the Boeing 737 MAX is a fine aircraft if you look at the pure numbers. It has great fuel efficiency, very versatile thanks to its range and perfectly hits that sweet spot with passenger numbers.
But there is no escaping the elephant in the room, which is the grounding of the type last year after two crashes which left more than 300 dead. Boeing has been hard at work to find a solution to this issue (a software problem to fix) and will soon have a fix for the FAA and EASA to approve.
This is only half the battle, as from here Boeing will need to encourage the type back into service.
Boeing has two problems: the aircraft’s flaws and the reputation that is now stuck with the aircraft.
Stage one – fixing the aircraft design
This author makes no claim to be an engineer or even at best an amateur expert on aircraft design, but Boeing needs to put all effort into fixing the actual issue at fault with the Boeing 737 MAX.
This will require a fix for the existing aircraft that are currently grounded, and implementing a fix into all new designs coming off the production line. Whilst airframe builders do quietly upgrade aircraft all the time, Boeing will need to be super transparent about what changes they plan to make and what they have done. This may include physically marking each 737 MAX with the fix so passengers feel confident that the aircraft has been overhauled.
Additionally, all pilots who want to fly the aircraft will need to be recertified. This will likely be on Boeing’s dime but will serve to put some faith back into the type.
Stage two – fixing the reputation
Some might argue that the physical fix is actually an easier task for Boeing compared to what comes next. Correcting or at least trying to fix the reputation of its Boeing 737 MAX is the harder mountain to climb.
Boeing will need to be very public with the aircraft and allow as many agencies to test it as possible. The public no longer blindly trusts Boeing or the FAA anymore after this event and will need at least one if not many third parties to rate the aircraft as ‘safe’.
Boeing will need to publish all the steps they have taken to prove the aircraft, including how many hours the type goes through to be completely recertified (in each region as well no less)
But the real challenge won’t be winning over the general public, but in fact, winning over its airline customers.
- Offer a discount on Boeing 737 MAX orders for those that were delayed.
- Offer subsidies for its use for the first year or so, to encourage airlines to deploy them and shoulder the reputation risk.
- Pay for all the pilot retraining to ensure that the crews can correctly operate the ‘new’ type.
- Offer free upgrades (not offering safety features as an extra costly upgrade).
Should Boeing rename the Boeing 737 MAX?
One point that comes up again and again when discussing the Boeing 737 MAX is whether or not Boeing should rename the aircraft.
Personally, this author doesn’t think that Boeing should rename it. Sure when people look up what they will be flying on, they might be upset that its the Boeing 737 MAX. However with a positive PR campaign before the relaunch, it may not be an issue anymore. If Boeing was to rename the aircraft, it would be an insult to the victims, the general population’s intelligence and might draw far more attention to the aircraft than needed.
Whether or not Boeing follows these steps we are sure to see the MAX back in the skies by this summer.
This article was written with help from fellow Simple Flying writers Chris and Jo.
What do you think? Are these the right moves? What do you suggest? Let us know in the comments.