Updated to include comment from Boeing
Boeing’s (NYSE: BA) 737 MAX planes might not return to service until next year because of software and other issues that still need to be fixed, according to a July 14 article in the Wall Street Journal.
Issues in getting the 737 MAX’s flight-control software ready are contributing to the likelihood that the planes might remain grounded until January 2020, according to government and industry officials cited in the article. The software also needs certification, while pilots need training on the software, the article pointed out.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was not available for comment on the article by press time, but it said on June 26 that there is no prescribed timeline for returning the Boeing 737 MAX to passenger service. It also said the federal agency was still evaluating Boeing’s software modification and developing necessary training requirements. The FAA is working with an independent review panel to complete the work necessary to get the 737 MAX to return to service.
Boeing told FreightWaves, “Boeing is working very closely with the FAA on the process they have laid out to certify the 737 MAX software update and safely return the MAX to service. The disciplined development and testing work underway is based on a rigorous analysis by our technical experts of the FAA requirements. We will submit the final software package to the FAA once we have satisfied all of their certification requirements.”
The company continued, “We have said all along that the regulatory authorities determine the process for certifying the MAX software and training updates and the timing for lifting the grounding order. We will not comment on media speculation on that schedule.”
Boeing reported on July 9 that out of the 90 deliveries of commercial airplanes it made in the second quarter of 2019, 24 of them were 737s. Year-to-date, 113 of the 239 commercial airplanes it delivered were 737s.
With the timeline for getting the 737s back into service remaining open-ended, some airlines are also pushing back their timelines for when the planes will resume service. American Airlines (NYSE: AAL) is extending its cancellations of using the 737 MAX from September to November 2. It said on July 14 that approximately 115 flights per day would be affected.
“American Airlines remains confident that impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with our union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft this year,” the company said.
FreightWaves’ Air Cargo Market Expert Jesse Cohen said additional delays could potentially affect air freight service although the overall impact would be relatively small.
“Ultimately Boeing will get this fixed and find ways to make good to the airlines involved,” Cohen said.
He continued, “Overall it is really a passenger issue. The cargo side is small, but the longer it goes, the greater the cargo impact will be. But in the end, the impact on the cargo side is still basically small.”