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A stored Smartwings Boeing 737 MAX sits alongside other aircraft awaiting delivery at Boeing’s Paine Field. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Boeing Set to Halt 737 MAX Production in January

After several rumors suggesting further interventions on the 737 MAX production line were imminent, with a press release on Monday, Boeing announced that production of 737 MAX aircraft will be temporarily suspended for an unspecified period of time.

The measure comes after the aircraft type was grounded worldwide last March following two deadly accidents involving this latest version of the Boeing 737 aircraft were attributed to the malfunctioning the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a new stabilization software introduced for MAX models.

“As a result of this ongoing evaluation, we have decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program beginning next month. We believe this decision is least disruptive to maintaining long-term production system and supply chain health,” said Boeing in a statement.

The manufacturer currently has 400 aircraft stored waiting for delivery to their respective customers once re-certification for the model is completed and commercial flights can resume. Last April the company had already decided to reduce the production from 52 to 42 aircraft a month.

“This decision is driven by a number of factors, including the extension of certification into 2020, the uncertainty about the timing and conditions of return-to-service and global training approvals, and the importance of ensuring that we can prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft,” Boeing says.

Boeing had been hoping to receive the go-ahead from the FAA to resume commercial flights in the U.S. for the aircraft type by the end of the year, but officials at the regulatory agency have confirmed the current status of the process is not compatible with a positive outcome by the end of 2019.

Several U.S. carriers that have 737 MAX aircraft in their fleet, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, had already adjusted their schedules earlier in November anticipating a return to service no earlier than March 2020.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of the changes to be made to the aircraft prior to its re-certification, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has already stated that it will not automatically endorse the certification provided by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) but it will perform its own test before allowing the aircraft again into European skies. This is likely to generate a transition period where 737 MAX aircraft are allowed to fly in one part of the world but are still grounded in other countries.

The approximately 12,000 Boeing employees impacted by the decision will “continue 737-related work or be temporarily assigned to other teams in Puget Sound,” the manufacturer confirmed in the press release.

Vanni Gibertini
Vanni Gibertini
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