Boeing has announced that production of the struggling 737 MAX aircraft will be temporarily halted from January.
Following two fatal crashes due to the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) the aircraft has been grounded around the world. However, despite increasing compensation claims from airlines, Boeing has continued to produce 737 MAX aircraft at a rate of 42 frames per month.
This has led to incredible images from the Boeing factory in Washington of aircraft fresh of the production line parked wingtip to wingtip.
With the U.S. manufacturer previously confident of a return to commercial service in 2019, despite the FAA still not approving the plane, North American carriers have begun to remove the MAX from schedules out to April 2020.
When I spoke to Boeing in August they were confident that the jet would return to service in 2019, but the latest move suggests that the delay to commercial service may now take longer than expected.
In a statement Boeing has said that suppliers would likely be affected, however, it does not expect to reduce staff on the 737 MAX program at this stage.
There are now over 400 MAX aircraft in storage around the world, and with the ongoing crisis costing Boeing over $9 billion, there still appears to be no end in sight as regulators grapple with both the manufacturer and public consensus to ensure a safe return to service.
Even when the FAA does approve the software fix and allow a return to service, other regulators around the world from Europe to China will also have to approve the aircraft for a safe return to service, which could take longer.
A Boeing spokesperson said that “at each step of this process Boeing has worked closely with the FAA and other regulators. We’re providing detailed documentation, had them fly in the simulators, and helped them understand our logic and the design for the new procedures, software and proposed training material to ensure that they are completely satisfied as to the aeroplane’s safety. The FAA and other regulatory authorities will ultimately determine return to service in each relevant jurisdiction. This may include a phased approach and timing may vary by jurisdiction.”