Boeing has said it expects to resume deliveries of its grounded 737
Max planes as early as next month and that airlines could be able to
restart commercial service in January, sending shares of the
manufacturer sharply higher.
Boeing’s 737 Max planes have been grounded since mid-March after two
fatal crashes killed 346 people. Investors cheered the new timeline,
which indicated the company is at the tail end of the process of
winning regulators’ approval for Boeing’s bestselling planes, even
though it was later than the company’s previous estimates and repeated
delays have prompted airlines to remove the planes from their
schedules several times.
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines on Friday pulled the planes
from their schedules until early March, nearly a year since
regulators’ grounding orders. Shares of Boeing were up more than four
per cent in afternoon trading, adding 110 points to the Dow Jones
The company halted deliveries of the planes after the global ban
earlier this year and slashed production by 20 per cent to 42 a month.
Boeing has scrambled to gain regulators’ approval for software fixes
it has developed for the jetliners after a flight-control program was
implicated in both crashes — one in Indonesia in October 2018 and
another in Ethiopia in March. Pilots in both crashes were battling the
system, known as MCAS, which was activated due to erroneous data from
a single sensor.
Boeing has changed the system to include data from two sensors.
Lawmakers slammed Boeing CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, in two hearings on
Capitol Hill late last month over the plane’s design. Muilenburg
admitted the company made mistakes.
The company has completed a test of the software with the Federal
Aviation Administration in a simulator, the company said in an update
Monday. But the process isn’t complete. Boeing also has to bring
airline pilots into 737 simulators to assess how cockpit alerts and
other factors affect pilot workload. The National Transportation
Safety Board criticised Boeing in a report in September for
underestimating the impact of such alerts on pilot performance.
Boeing needs to conduct a certification flight with officials and
regulators also still have to sign off on new pilot training, which
the company expects to have in January. The grounding has crimped the
growth of 737 Max airline customers and cost them hundreds of millions
of dollars in revenue after they were forced to cancel flights. Even
after the planes are fully cleared to fly, airlines will have to train
thousands of their 737 pilots before they can operate commercially.
That process can take more than a month.