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Boeing 737 Max: back in the sky but unloved?

Boeing 737 Max: back in the sky but unloved?

The Financial Times/Australian Financial Review is reporting that airlines have been cancelling around 516 orders for the 737 Max over the last two years to the end of October 2020.

In contrast, Airbus has logged 1010 orders for its competing A320 family of aircraft during the same period according to Cirium. They have a great little data animation showing the relative orders for Airbus and Boeing that is worth watching.

Screen grab of Cirium data animation of relative orders of Airbus and Boing planes over time

Background

The 737 MAX was grounded roughly two years ago after two fatal accidents attributable to the flight control system on the plane which was designed to assist pilots to avoid stalling the aircraft, but which pushed down the nose mistakenly due to the input of one sensor. Boeing had failed to mention this software change in the crew manual. It also argued successfully that pilots did not need to complete simulator retraining for the new aircraft. A US Congressional committee handed down a report a few months ago damning the airline and the failure of the FAA’s oversight of the development of the plan, resulting in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes and 346 fatalities.

737 Max back in the sky

Boeing has agreed to add a sensor, so that the software now relies on two inputs, and cannot be activated repeatedly. It has also agreed to the need for retraining of pilots on the jet.

American Airlines will be returning the plane to the air in late December 2020. Other US carriers are planning to fly the aircraft again in 2021.

2PAXfly Takeout

Getting the aircraft back into commercial flying is only a plan. Given the way the pandemic is shaping up in the USA between now and the inauguration of President Biden on 20 January, who knows if domestic flights will continue at their current rate?

The Europeans are being a little more tentative about the aircraft returning to the air, and they have their own second wave of the pandemic to be dealing with.

I don’t think this aircraft, nor Boeing are out of the woods yet. Not so much to do with the safety issues around the 737 Max, but with the complications of the pandemic on the airline industry.

Lets hope that the availability of successful vaccines in January is a promise rather than a prediction.

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