Boeing Awaits FAA Approval of Max Electrical Fixes

 - April 28, 2021, 2:22 PM
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max sits in storage in Victorville, California, in January 2020. Early this month Southwest had to ground 30 of its 58 Maxes due to an electrical problem. (Photo: Barry Ambrose)

Boeing expects the FAA to certify fixes to electrical problems discovered in early April on certain 737 Max jets in time to clear the resulting excess inventory of the narrowbodies by the end of the year, company CEO David Calhoun revealed during an earnings presentation Wednesday. Calhoun, who said the company continues to produce the Max at a “low rate” and plans to build 31 aircraft per month by early next year, noted that once the FAA issues its approval, it would take just a matter of days to repair each airplane.  

On April 8, Boeing advised 16 customers to temporarily ground more than 100 of their 737 Max jets due to the new production problem. The latest technical setback for the Max calls for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for what Boeing termed a component of the electrical power system. 

Several Max operators continue to await clearance from their countries’ aviation authorities—most notably that of China—to resume service more than two years after their groundings due to the twin crashes in late 2018 and early 2019 that claimed 346 lives. Calhoun said he expects the Max will regain certification from all authorities by the end of the year. Boeing has now delivered 85 Max jets since the FAA lifted its grounding order in December and 21 airlines have returned their airplanes to service. More than a third of the previously grounded fleet has resumed revenue service. Boeing expects to deliver about half of the 450 Maxes remaining in inventory due to the March 2019 grounding by the end of this year and the rest in 2022, CFO Greg Smith reported.

Calhoun also stressed the importance of re-establishing the trade relationship between the U.S. and China, whose exploding market once accounted for a large portion of Max deliveries and will affect future production rates.

“We’ve got to reinstate our trade relationship in aerospace with China,” said Calhoun. “That’s a big part of the market long term. It’s important that we get our fair share of that market, which historically has always been at 50 percent—a bit more when you consider all the widebody activity. I believe that will happen, but it’s going to take a little time.”