The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded for almost a year. However, following in-depth investigation and testing by the regulators, it looks poised to begin certification flights in a matter of weeks. However, today a new software issue has cropped up that could spell more trouble for Boeing. Does this mean the MAX will take even longer to return?
The 737 MAX is almost ready to fly
The world is eagerly awaiting the return of the Boeing 737 MAX to its skies. Now, it seems that the countdown is on, as the FAA has announced that certification flights will begin in a matter of weeks. FAA administrator Steve Dickson has said that international regulatory bodies are on the verge of an agreement to the final fixes so that the MAX can return to service. He was reported by Reuters to have said,
“On the design approval, from everything that I have seen, I think we’ll have very solid alignment.”
Great news for Boeing, but the announcement comes with a barbed edge. Almost simultaneously, Bloomberg broke the news that another software issue has been found on the 737 MAX, which must be patched before it can take those all-important flights.
What’s the problem now?
Dickson has been somewhat tight-lipped about the precise issue with the 737 MAX. He noted that a light which indicates the stabilizer trim is not working properly had been “staying on for longer than the desired period.”
According to sources who talked to Bloomberg, the problem involves an alert that is designed to warn pilots when the trim system, which raises and lowers the nose of the plane, is not working as it should. The sources further said that the issue came about due to Boeing’s redesign of the two flight computers on the 737 MAX, which were supposed to make them more resilient to failure.
While this is not an issue with the MCAS, it’s painfully close to the problem Boeing was originally trying to fix. Although this seems to be a less severe issue, Boeing will still need to work hard to ensure everything is working perfectly before the FAA agrees to let the aircraft fly.
What does this mean for the MAX?
Dickson has been noted to have indicated that the 737 MAX could be back in service before the middle of the year. However, he has also consistently warned against putting any definitive timeline on the aircraft’s return.
Boeing has often been more optimistic, previously indicating several return to service dates, all of which have passed. Its most recent message has been that we should see the aircraft in the skies again by mid-2020, which is largely in line with the FAA’s overall indications. But will this latest software issue cause a further delay?
Bloomberg’s sources said that they did not expect this new issue to really affect the timeline of return to service. They said that the planemaker had sufficiently padded its projected timelines to allow for such issues to crop up.
Many of the operators of the Boeing 737 MAX have already removed the type from service well into the summer season. Ryanair has said it doesn’t expect to receive its modified version of the plane, the 737 MAX-200, until at least October, but that didn’t put Michael O’Leary off from announcing his intention to order more of the type, this time the 737 MAX 10.