Year of MAX letdown for Boeing

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on March 13, 2020

A file picture of a Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane at the Boeing’ Renton Factory in Renton, Washington, US   -  AFP

A file picture of Boeing 737 MAX 8   -  Matt McKnight

12 months after the bestseller plane was grounded, the aircraft major has no timeframe of when, if at all, MAX will fly again

Boeing’s MAX entered service with American low-cost carrier Southwest in 2017.

It started out as a bestseller, becoming Boeing’s fastest selling aircraft. Within months of its launch, Boeing had 5,000 orders from more than 100 customers worldwide for the MAX.

However, 19 months after its launch, the plane ran into trouble when a Lion Air aircraft crashed, on October 29, 2018. At that time, Boeing indicated that the crash was due to pilot error.

A few months later, on March 10, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines MAX crashed soon after take-off from the Addis Ababa airport.

Within hours of this crash, China grounded its MAX fleet. Soon, other countries followed. By March 13, less than 72 hours after the Ethiopian crash, almost the entire global MAX fleet had been grounded.

India was not among the first to ground the aircraft but it did, finally, on March 13. The US, which had resisted calls for grounding the aircraft, also eventually banned it.

Will it fly again?

Over the year, it has emerged that there were problems with the technology that Boeing used in the manufacture of the aircraft, which overrode pilot instructions, leading to the two fatal crashes. The planes remain grounded, with no definitive timeframe on if and when the MAX will fly again.

The grounding has cost Boeing dearly. It is said to have secured commitments of $12 billion to meet the cost of the grounding.

The grounding has also driven a wedge among global regulators with calls that mere certification by the US Federal Aviation Administration should not be considered enough to allow the aircraft to fly again.

A big question mark also remains on whether the pilots flying the aircraft, and the flying public, will ever have enough faith in the MAX again.

Published on March 12, 2020

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