Boeing this week announced that it plans to suspend the production of its 737 MAX planes, which have been grounded since March because of two fatal crashes, after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it will not be able to approve the planes for flight until next year at the earliest.
Boeing had been hoping, and targeting, that the FAA would be able to finish its review of the 737 MAX by the end of 2019, but now the beleaguered Chicago-based company will have to continue to wait on the FAA’s certification before it returns the jets to service.
“The FAA and global regulatory authorities determine the timeline for certification and return to service. We remain fully committed to supporting this process. It is our duty to ensure that every requirement is fulfilled, and every question from our regulators is answered,” Boeing said in a statement.
There are five key milestones Boeing must complete with the FAA before return to service: FAA eCab Simulator Certification Session, FAA Line Pilots Crew Workload Evaluation, FAA Certification Flight Test, Boeing Final Submittal to the FAA, and the Joint Operational Evaluation Board (JOEB) Simulator Training Evaluation. Currently, Boeing has only managed to achieve FAA eCab Simulator Certification Session.
Boeing had continued the production of the plane since the groundings and reportedly has about 400 now in storage. It now says its priority will be “safely returning the 737 to service” and then delivering the 400 planes it has already produced, though there is no target date for its return.
According to Boeing, the halt in production will not impact the jobs of the workers at its factory in Renton, Washington, where the 737 MAX is produced. Instead, Boeing said it would reassign some of the 12,000 workers.
Most airlines that fly the jets have said that they don’t expect the return of the jets until 2020 — just last week, Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the jet, said that it expects the MAX to return in the first half of 2020 (though it may have to delay that even further as FAA approval gets pushed back). Southwest, according to CEO Gary Kelly, is on track to lose $435 million in operating income in 2019 due to the groundings.
American Airlines this week pulled the jet from its service until Apr. 7; and other airlines, including Air Canada, which removed the jet from service until at least Feb. 14, 2020, will likely have to follow.