US aerospace giant Boeing reported on Tuesday that its 737 MAX single-aisle airliner would remain grounded for longer than the company had hoped. The grounding of the aircraft was imposed after two fatal crashes, in late 2018 and early 2019, which killed a total of 346 people.
A system fitted to the 737 MAX, the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), has been implicated in both crashes. The MCAS was developed for the 737 MAX series because this has different aerodynamic characteristics to all previous 737 types.
“We are informing our customers and suppliers that we are currently estimating that the ungrounding [sic] of the 737 MAX will begin during mid-2020,” said Boeing in its statement. “This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process. It is subject to our ongoing attempts to address known schedule risks and further developments that may arise in connection with the certification process.”
The company also noted that the regulatory authorities were “rightly” applying “rigorous scrutiny” in their review of the aircraft’s flight control system. The same standards were also being applied by the Joint Operations Evaluation Board, which established the requirements for the training of pilots.
“Returning the MAX safely to service is our number one priority, and we are confident that will happen,” assured Boeing. “We acknowledge and regret the continued difficulties that the grounding of the 737 MAX has presented to our customers, our regulators, our suppliers, and the flying public.”
Further information about the programme to return the 737 MAX to safe operation will be given at the company’s quarterly results presentation next week, affirmed the statement. The 737 MAX is the fourth generation of its hitherto renowned 737 single-aisle airliner family. The previous generations were the original – the 737-100 and 737-200 – models; the classic – the 737-300, 737-400 and 737-500; and the Next Generation – the 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900ER.