United has been forced to make a judgment call on its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft dilemma. Keep the grounded aircraft on standby and ready to fly, or move them into long term storage to until they are confirmed to fly again? United has chosen the latter as reported by Bruce Drum from World Airline News.
What are the details?
It has been over six months since various world aviation authorities grounded the Boeing 737 MAX series, after two fatal crashes that cost the lives of over 346 passengers and crew. United was one of many US carriers caught out by the grounding, having its entire fleet of MAX aircraft grounded overnight.
United has chosen to move all 14 of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft into long term storage in Goodyear, Arizona (just outside of Phoenix). This area has been selected for its incredibly dry air that allows aircraft to be stored ‘in-the-elements’ without receiving damage over time.
According to USA Today, United will fly 12 737 MAX 9 aircraft from Houston to avoid hurricane season as well as pick up the two remaining 737 MAX 9 aircraft it has in Los Angeles (which it has to move due to construction at the airport).
“United is fully committed to the safe movement of all our MAX aircraft and we have clearance from the FAA to conduct these ferry flights,” the airline said in its statement published by The Points Guy.
It is a far cry from the current conditions most 737 MAX aircraft are stored at Boeing’s factory in Washington state (one of the rainiest regions in the United States).
With the aircraft stored away under lock and key in the middle of the desert, it is likely that United will extend the service suspension of the aircraft beyond the November 3rd deadline. They might even follow Southwest’s footsteps and cancel any flights using the aircraft until 2020.
When does United expect the 737 MAX to fly again?
If United is really putting these aircraft away for the next few months in the desert then they might not expect a resolution to the 737 MAX crisis anytime soon. This is different from the airline’s last statement on the grounding in which the CEO of United, Oscar Munoz, said he would be on the first United 737 MAX aircraft as soon as the type was cleared to fly.
Needless to say, even if the aircraft were allowed to fly tomorrow (the FAA is expecting the aircraft to undergo new flight worthy tests in October) it is unlikely that United could train their pilots on the new procedures and pull the aircraft out of the desert in time to meet the November deadline.
United has not told media how much the grounding of the 737 MAX has affected its bottom line, but they have been buying 19 used Boeing 737-700 planes (not MAXs) in the meantime to help keep up with their growth demands.
This movement of aircraft should be completed by mid-September.
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