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A Boeing 737 MAX 8 for Southwest during test flights at Paine Field. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Southwest Grounds 737 MAXs After Production Issue

Southwest Airlines has grounded 30 Boeing 737 MAX jets after Boeing revealed an electrical power system issue on some aircraft. Boeing has asked 16 customers to check the electrical systems on some planes and verify “that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system,” per a company statement

Boeing did not say which airlines are affected in its statement, but Southwest, American and United all say their fleets have been. Southwest is the most affected airline of the three, as it needs to pull almost twice as many aircraft from service as either of the other two.

This is the first major issue for the MAX since it was ungrounded by the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in November 2020 following two deadly crashes of the type. A Boeing spokeswoman told CNBC by email that this new issue is not related to the MCAS system which is widely believed to have caused the crashes.

“We are working closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on this production issue,” the company’s Friday statement said. “We are also informing our customers of specific tail numbers affected and we will provide direction on appropriate corrective actions.”

Southwest currently has a fleet of 58 MAX aircraft, so the 30 it is grounding represent just over half of its type fleet. Flights originally scheduled on affected aircraft will be swapped with reserve aircraft and should operate normally.

A Southwest 737 MAX 8 over the threshold in Las Vegas. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

“Southwest anticipates minimal disruption to our operation, and we appreciate the understanding of our Customers and Employees as Safety is always the uncompromising priority at Southwest Airlines,” the airline said in a statement.

Southwest Airlines says it has not experienced operational problems with the affected aircraft.

This is a blow to the 737 MAX program just as it is starting to receive orders for the type again as airlines around the world are restarting operations. Southwest, which restarted MAX service less than a month ago, recently placed an order for the type that potentially includes up to 255 aircraft.

Southwest is not the only airline affected by this move – American is pulling 17 of its 41 MAX planes from services, and 16 of United’s 30 are affected.

There is no clear date yet when these aircraft will return to service or if certain aircraft are more likely to be affected, but American said that only planes it received after MAX return to service are affected.

“We have been in touch with the FAA and Boeing and will continue to work closely with them to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service,” United said.

Multiple Boeing aircraft have faced production issues or delays lately. Some Boeing 787 Dreamliners have recently needed extra inspections after the company that supplies windscreens for the aircraft changed their formula for the windows. And over the Summer of 2020, the FAA revealed it is investigating quality lapses in Dreamliner production, as the type has faced a variety of issues, especially relating to their batteries and engines, over the past few years.

Boeing’s 777X has also faced delays in testing, and its launch date, originally set for 2020, has been pushed back to 2023.

Author

  • John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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