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737 Max Updates and Cancellations


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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/4/2019 at 5:47 AM, Don Hudson said:

Where is this going now?...

The notion that MCAS was intended as "stall prevention" in rare corners of operation is showing up and now being discussed.

The implications are significant. Stall prevention systems are not permitted single-points-of-failure, https://www.satcom.guru/2019/10/flawed-assumptions-pave-path-to-disaster.html

For ease of reference, here is the link to the JATR, https://www.faa.gov/news/media/attachments/Final_JATR_Submittal_to_FAA_Oct_2019.pdf

Re the above, the following is some really good writing by a very experienced military fighter pilot & engineer, from an online discussion on another forum - well worth reading for a good understanding of the MAX issue:

The MCAS moved the horzontal stab to keep the pitch moment of the beast within the FAA cert requirements. That is not a minor "tweak" of the plane's natural aero stability. A computer controlled movement of the elevator at the rear of the stab would have been "minor". Planes since the early 60's have had flight control "dampers" and "augmentation" to help we lowly pilots that get you there on time and maybe smooth things out a bit. The FBW Airbus and the military jets are not in the same arena with the 737 MAX.

The MAX problem was not "feel" from the longitudinal control system, it was the actual tendency of the plane to increase pitch at the same back stick or at least require less back stick when getting above a certain AoA. When I say back stick feel, what I mean is your plane wants to do something it normally does with "x" pound/ounces of pressure or movement, but now requires less or actually requires an opposite movement/pressure/force. The FAA requirement requires more "pull" as you try to get the nose up and increase the AoA. Dat's why the MCAS used the AoA probe and not body rates, Q, inertial gee, etc. Somewhere in there Boeing found that mach contributed to the pitch tendency and then increased the overall "gain" that MCAS exercised, then they had the damned thing keep pushing doen for "x" reps/seconds/whatever. Sheesh!

FBW systems vary as to the amount of "help" they can provide the "technicians" we now have flying the jets, but I cannot find any civilian commercial systems that depend upon the computers to correct for unconventional aero that we see in some military fighters requiring severe maneuverability. Those rascals have different operational requirements and most do not have 200 SLF's depending upon them to get to Detroit. The Airbus 330 aero design is so good that the crew of AF447 did not even realize they were deeply stalled ( not a "deep stall"). Go see the thousands of posts about that debacle and then you will conclude the system did exactly what it was designed to do given the air data provided to the computer and the pilot stick inputs.

FBW is not a magic bullet, and should not be used to compensate for poor aero design.



I agree . . . about failure to clearly explain MCAS to the pilots was reprehensible. My only bone of contention is annotated here, and you can quote as much of my annotated paragraph from that company missal as you wish. It still focuses upon the cert requirements of a mechanical flight control system and minimizes the treacherous tendency of the plane to increase AoA without pulling harder:

From a publicly-available FAA document, (the gentleman's comments are in red):

In unique and rare circumstances, these changes do create a softening of the control column load at more extreme angles of attack through the small amount of lift garnered from the leading edge of the engine cowling (at high mach, the AoA may not be the same as in the holding pattern or in a steep turn, those shockwaves are tricky - show me the curves). This softening to the pilots’ feel in the control column is only important from an aircraft certification perspective, in that it feels different for the pilot from the baseline 737NG -800 model that served as the basis for certification. NO! It is important because the airplane is telling you something about its aerodynamics that is different from the previous model , duhh]. This is the fundamental reason why the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) was developed. This control column load is part of the stall identification parameters and is why the certification requirement is there .

We also exchanged views on the Voodoo's tendency to "pitch-up" in a wind-up turn. Full disclosure, I did not fly the Voodoo, was not in the RCAF and am not an engineer, but the conversation itself was fascinating, and I had heard tales of this tendency for the Voodoo to "swap ends" when I was a young, new F/O on the DC9 many years ago now!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Southwest confirms order for 100 737 Max and 155 options.


Southwest Airlines Orders 100 Boeing 737 MAX Jets, Plus 155 Options
Deal raises Southwest’s 737 MAX commitment to more than 600 jets between the 737-7 and larger 737-8
Southwest aims to modernize future fleet with improved fuel efficiency, environmental performance and operational flexibility
Order brings stability to Boeing’s largest commercial program and its suppliers

SEATTLE, March 29, 2021 — Boeing [NYSE:BA] and Southwest Airlines today announced the carrier will continue to build its business around the 737 MAX family with a new order for 100 airplanes and 155 options across two models. The deal comes after a multi-year fleet evaluation by Southwest and means that Boeing and its suppliers could build more than 600 new 737 MAX jets for the airline through 2031.

Southwest had been exploring options to modernize the largest component of its fleet: the 737-700 that serves the airline’s needs for a 140-150 seat airplane. With the new agreement, the airline reaffirmed the 737-7 as its preferred replacement and growth airplane. The jet will complement the 737-8, which serves Southwest’s needs for a 175-seat model. Both 737 MAX family members will reduce fuel use and carbon emissions by at least 14% compared to the airplanes they replace, helping to improve operating costs and environmental performance. Southwest said the solution allows it to maintain the operational efficiencies of an all-Boeing 737 fleet to support its low-cost, point-to-point route network.

“Southwest Airlines has been operating the Boeing 737 series for nearly 50 years, and the aircraft has made significant contributions to our unparalleled success. Today’s commitment to the 737 MAX solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft and confirms our plans to offer the Boeing 737 series of aircraft to our Employees and Customers for years to come,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chairman and CEO. “We are proud to continue our tradition of being the world’s largest operator of an all-Boeing fleet.”

“In addition to supporting our efforts to operate sustainably and efficiently, the 737 MAX offers Employees and Customers travel comforts such as a quieter cabin, larger overhead bin spaces, seating with adjustable headrests, and more galley space for onboard service,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s chief operating officer.

The new purchase agreement takes Southwest’s order book to 200 737-7s and 180 737-8s, more than 30 of which have already been delivered. Southwest will also have 270 options for either of the two models, taking the carrier’s direct-buy commitment to more than 600 airplanes. The airline also plans additional 737 MAX jets through third-party lessors.

“Southwest Airlines has long been a leader and bellwether for the airline industry and this order is a big vote of confidence for commercial air travel. As vaccine distribution continues to pick-up, people are returning to the skies and fueling hopes for a full recovery and renewed growth across our industry,” said Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We are deeply honored by Southwest’s continuing trust in Boeing and the 737. Their fleet decision today brings more stability for our biggest commercial program and will ensure that our entire 737 family will be building new airplanes for Southwest for years to come.”

As part of the agreement, Southwest will also expand its use of Boeing’s digital solutions to support its 737 MAX fleet, including Airplane Health Management, Maintenance Performance Toolbox and digital navigation charting tools. Boeing will also provide system software upgrades and new wireless communications-enabling equipment to support Southwest’s operations.


About the 737 MAX Family

Designed and built in Renton, Washington, the 737 MAX family delivers superior efficiency, flexibility and reliability for the single-aisle airplane market. The 737-7 can fly 3,850 nautical miles, the longest range in the MAX family and 1,000 nautical miles farther than its predecessor. This derivative seats a maximum of 172 passengers, compared to the 737-8’s 210 maximum seats. The 737-8 can fly 3,550 nautical miles. This additional capability allows airlines to offer new and more direct routes for passengers.

Every 737 MAX features the new Boeing Sky Interior, highlighted by modern sculpted sidewalls and window reveals, LED lighting that enhances the sense of spaciousness and larger pivoting overhead storage bins. Other technical specifications can be found at www.boeing.com/commercial/737max/

About The Boeing Company

Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading provider of commercial airplanes, defense, space and security systems, and global services. As a top U.S. exporter, the company supports commercial and government customers in more than 150 countries. Building on a legacy of aerospace leadership, Boeing continues to lead in technology and innovation, deliver for its customers and invest in its people and future growth.

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1 hour ago, deicer said:

The new purchase agreement takes Southwest’s order book to 200 737-7s and 180 737-8s, more than 30 of which have already been delivered. Southwest will also have 270 options for either of the two models, taking the carrier’s direct-buy commitment to more than 600 airplanes. The airline also plans additional 737 MAX jets through third-party lessors.

I've never quite understood options.  Are the 270 options definite sales with the final configurations/types still undecided or are the wish lists.  If the latter is there a penalty for not closing the deal on them?  Anybody know?

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28 minutes ago, Specs said:

I've never quite understood options.  Are the 270 options definite sales with the final configurations/types still undecided or are the wish lists.  If the latter is there a penalty for not closing the deal on them?  Anybody know?

Options to purchase. Price usually predetermined. No firm purchase contract. No firm delivery date. No deposit required. 

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10 minutes ago, Specs said:

So it's a limited time offer to the buyer because the seller thinks their good for it.  The buyer can walk away anytime with no penalty?

Yes. And options are typically time limited. Expiry dates usually form part of the original purchase agreement.

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An interesting tidbit from Scott Hamilton of LeeHam




Pontifications: Southwest didn’t invite Airbus to bid

by Scott Hamilton

By Scott Hamilton

April 5, 2021, © Leeham News: Southwest Airlines didn't ask Airbus to submit a commercial bid for the A220-300, three knowledgeable sources tell Leeham News.

Southwest conducted an internal technical analysis of the A220-300 vs. the 737-7 MAX. The A220-300 offered better economics. But this competed against the costs of retaining a common 737 fleet.

"Southwest acknowledged the merits of the A220, but there was no competition" for a commercially-based bid, LNA is told.

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More issues and groundings of the Max...


Airlines ground some 737 Max jets after Boeing discloses wiring problem


At least three U.S. airlines announced Friday they are grounding some of their 737 Max jets after Boeing disclosed a wiring problem affecting the planes.

Boeing said in a statement that the problem stems from a “production issue” and affected planes used by 16 of its customers. Southwest Airlines said it is pulling 30 of its 58 Max plans from service, while American Airlines said it would ground 17 of its 41 planes, and United Airlines is pulling 16 of its 30.


It wasn’t immediately clear how many jets overall were affected. Boeing said it would work with its customers to help them fix the planes.

“The recommendation is being made to allow for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system,” the company said in a statement.



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WestJet, Sunwing warned by Boeing to inspect some 737 Max aircraft for possible electrical problem

From The Globe and Mail – link to source story – Updated from previous story


WestJet Airlines and Sunwing Airlines are among 16 operators of the 737 Max warned by Boeing Co. to ground and inspect some aircraft for possible electrical problems.

Boeing has told the airlines to examine certain models of the Max for potential problems related to a component of the electric power system.

Morgan Bell, a WestJet spokeswoman, said the plane – one of 14 737 Max in its fleet – has been pulled from service. “Any maintenance, if necessary, will be completed before the aircraft returns to service,” Ms. Bell said. “WestJet’s additional 13 737 MAX aircraft are not affected.”

Sunwing said two of its four 737 Max are affected by the suspension. “We have been informed by Boeing that two of our 737 MAX planes may be impacted by the potential electrical issue,” said Melanie Filipp, a spokeswoman for Sunwing, which grounded all flights on Jan. 31 due to the pandemic.  “We are awaiting further direction from Boeing on actions to be taken prior to operation of the specified aircraft.”

The 737 Max was cleared to resume flying in Canada in January after it was grounded worldwide for about 20 months after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. The pilots lost control of the planes shortly after takeoff – problems that were linked to the model’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

Canadian, U.S. and other regulators studied and approved the software changes Boeing made before allowing the model to resume service.

Ivan Gale, a Boeing spokesman, said the electrical problem in the new safety warning is not related to the model’s MCAS. “We are in contact directly with the impacted airlines,” said Mr. Gale, who declined to name the carriers.

Boeing did not say how many planes are suspended.

Southwest Airlines removed 30 MAX airplanes from its schedule Friday, while American Airlines pulled 17 of its 41 MAX models. United Airlines removed 16 of its 30 MAX airplanes and Alaska Airlines four aircraft.

An Air Canada spokesman said none of the carrier’s 24 737 Max is affected.

The U.S. regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, said it will ensure the issue is addressed. Transport Canada did not respond to questions on Friday.

The fatal crashes that spurred the global grounding in 2019 involved Indonesia’s Lion Air in October, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines in March, 2019.

WestJet’s Ms. Bell said the new grounding has not changed the carrier’s favourable view of the 737 Max. “WestJet has safely operated the 737 MAX since its return to service on January 21, 2021, and the airline has full confidence in the safety of the aircraft,” Ms. Bell said.

The 737 Max is a new version of a plane that first flew in the late 1960s. Updated with bigger engines and other modifications, the model became a best-seller after being introduced in 2011 due to its longer range and low operating costs.

– With files from Reuters

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From a Seattle Newspaper, note the mention of a problem with 


20 to 40 motors that move the horizontal stabilizer on all 737s, including the MAX and earlier models.

New electrical flaw grounds more than 60 737 MAXs, adding to Boeing’s woes

April 9, 2021 at 5:31 pm Updated April 9, 2021 at 9:40 pm
  Passengers on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 flight line up to exit the aircraft after arriving at Houston’s Hobby airport last month. Sixty MAX jets from... (Charlie Riedel / AP) More 
Dominic Gates 
Seattle Times aerospace reporter

A minor change in Boeing’s 737 MAX manufacturing process that was insufficiently vetted caused an electrical system problem that on Friday temporarily grounded more than 60 of the aircraft — out of almost 200 MAXs that have returned to service since December.

While this latest manufacturing flaw is unrelated to the flight-control system implicated in two fatal crashes that grounded the MAX for nearly two years, it slows the positive momentum that had begun to build as more MAXs took to the air and new orders came in from United, Alaska and Southwest.

The problem, according to two people with knowledge of the modified manufacturing process, arose when a backup electrical power control unit was secured to a rack on the flight deck with fasteners — in place of the rivets previously used.

This change was executed in such a way that it did not provide a complete electrical grounding path to the unit. The lack of secure electrical grounding could potentially cause malfunctions in a variety of electrical systems, such as the engine anti-ice system and the auxiliary power unit (APU) in the plane’s tail.

Boeing said it discovered the issue “on a production airplane during normal build activity” and that inspections are needed to verify “that a sufficient ground path exists” for this control unit.  

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Boeing notified it late Thursday that it was recommending certain MAX airplanes be temporarily removed from service.

After Boeing informed airlines late Thursday evening, Southwest grounded 30 of its MAXs. American grounded 17, and United 16.

Boeing said 16 customers worldwide are affected.

FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor said Boeing’s manufacturing switch from rivets to fasteners was “a minor design change” that did not require approval by either the federal safety agency or the internal Boeing organization that represents the FAA and assures compliance with regulations.

Another 737 stabilizer problem

This latest problem adds to the long litany of missteps currently afflicting Boeing.

Manufacturing flaws have grounded more than 80 of the widebody 787 Dreamliners for months; design flaws mean the vision system on the Air Force’s KC-46 military aerial refueling tanker must be completely revamped; and quality issues have delayed the Starliner spacecraft program.

And in a previously unreported problem, Boeing recently found a potential defect in a batch of 20 to 40 motors that move the horizontal stabilizer on all 737s, including the MAX and earlier models.

This motor — manufactured by Eaton, a supplier headquartered in Ireland — is part of the system that pitches the airplane nose up or nose down. Boeing said seven of the aircraft with a stabilizer motor from the defective batch are MAXs.

Boeing spokesperson Jessica Kowal said the defect potentially affects the reliability of the component.

The motor “has been replaced in five of the MAXs already and the remaining two airplanes will have the parts replaced before they fly again,” she said.

Kowal said Boeing is continuing “to evaluate any potential impact to the 737 NG fleet.”

American Airlines spokesperson Sarah Jantz said two MAXs in its fleet had their stabilizer motors replaced as a result of Boeing’s directive, although neither had experienced any issues. (Both those fixed MAXs are now grounded by the new electrical power control unit problem.)

The failure of a stabilizer motor is a rare inflight issue. Dealing with it requires pilots to use the manual wheel in the cockpit to trim the aircraft’s pitch.

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More electrical problems found on some Boeing 737 MAX -sources
By Tracy Rucinski and Tim Hepher  20 hrs ago
1 Comment

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By Tracy Rucinski and Tim Hepher

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX 8 sits outside the hangar during a media tour of the Boeing 737 MAX at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington© Reuters/Matt McKnight FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX 8 sits outside the hangar during a media tour of the Boeing 737 MAX at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington
(Reuters) - An electrical problem that led to dozens of Boeing 737 MAX jets being suspended from service has widened after engineers found similar grounding flaws elsewhere in the cockpit, industry sources said on Friday.

Airlines pulled dozens of MAX jets from service a week ago after Boeing Co warned of a production-related electrical grounding problem in a backup power control unit situated in the cockpit on some recently built airplanes.

Since then, suspected grounding problems have been found in two other places on the flight deck, the sources said.

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These include the storage rack where the affected control unit is kept and the instrument panel facing the pilots.

Boeing had no immediate comment on the wider problem, which was first reported by Aviation Week. (https://bit.ly/3mT210Y)

Boeing shares closed down 1.2%.

The glitch - which affects about a fifth of MAX jets in the market - is the latest issue to beset Boeing's most-sold model but is not related to design problems that contributed to a 20-month worldwide safety ban in the wake of two fatal crashes.

Boeing is expected to draw up bulletins advising airlines how to fix the problems with grounding, or the electrical paths designed to maintain safety in the event of a surge of voltage.

U.S. regulators must first approve the bulletins.

While most analysts say the fix is expected to be relatively straightforward, no details were immediately available on the timing of the repair bulletins needed to start the work on some 90 jets affected by the suspension.

The planemaker had initially told airlines a fix could take hours or a few days per jet, according to a notification seen by Reuters when the partial suspension was first announced.

The problem has been traced back to a change in material coating once production of the 737 MAX resumed last year.

Nearly all the affected jets were built before deliveries of the MAX resumed in December, shortly after U.S. regulators lifted the fleet-wide ban caused by the 2018 and 2019 crashes.

Boeing has said it plans to raise production of the 737 MAX gradually from an unspecified current "low rate" to a target of 31 jets a month by early 2022. Industry sources estimate it is currently producing around four jets a month.

Airline sources say Boeing has not, however, delivered any MAX jets since the electrical problem was identified last week.

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seems that the faults continue....

New 737 Max issue affects nearly two dozen airlines, 106 jets: FAA

From Flight Global – link to source story

By Jon Hemmerdinger | 23 April 2021

The US Federal Aviation Administration has disclosed new details about an electric problem that forced the grounding of more than 100 recently-produced Boeing 737 Max.

Though the issue primarily affects jets delivered by Boeing after the FAA lifted the grounding in November 2020, several Max delivered before the grounding are also affected, according to the agency.

Regulators globally grounded the Max in mid-March 2019.

WestJet-737-Max-c-Shutterstock Source: Shutterstock — A WestJet 737 Max

The issue involves “potential degradation of bonds associated with electrical grounding of equipment that could affect the operation of certain systems”, says the FAA in a 22 April “Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community”.

Potentially affected Max systems include standby power control units, “P6” circuit breaker panels and main instrument panels, it adds.

Boeing notified the FAA about the concern, which it discovered “after electrical power systems did not perform as expected during the testing of a newly manufactured Model 737-8 airplane,” says the FAA’s notice.

Chicago-based Boeing publicly disclosed the problem on 9 April but did not specify how many aircraft were affected. Boeing recommended airlines pull affected jets from service.

The FAA’s 22 April memo specifies that the problem affects 106 737 Max 8s and Max 9s, including 71 in the fleets of US airlines.

Those jets have manufacturing line numbers between 7,399 and 8,082. Boeing manufactured them after making design changes in “early 2019”, the FAA says.

Of the 106 aircraft, Boeing delivered 18 in early 2019 prior to the global grounding, according to Cirium fleets data.

Operators with affected jets include four large US carriers: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.

Others are Air Canada, Belavia, Blue Air, Cayman Airways, Copa Airlines, GOL, Icelandair, Minsheng Leasing, Neos, Shandong Airlines, SilkAir, SpiceJet, Sunwing Airlines, TUI, Turkish Airlines, Valla Jets, WestJet and Xiamen Airlines, says the FAA.

“This issue is not related to recertification of the flight control system on the 737 Max, un-grounding of the aircraft, or its return to service,” the FAA’s notice says. “All affected in-service airplanes passed all testing prior to delivery and there have been no reported in-service failures due to this condition.”



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Boeing notified the FAA about the concern, which it discovered “after electrical power systems did not perform as expected during the testing of a newly manufactured Model 737-8 airplane,” says the FAA’s notice.

That’s concerning. ?

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On 4/24/2021 at 7:25 AM, North of You said:

This isn’t in anyway a productive comment to make on this thread,




Hows that outsourcing everything and everyone to unskilled labour to save money program working out for you Boeing? 

Not to mention putting 30,000 out of work while the CEO cashed in on over $20 million in bonuses last year.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Fresh FAA Concerns Set To Delay Grounded 737 MAX’s Return To Service

Hot on the heels of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issuing an Airworthiness Directive concerning potential corrosion affecting Boeing’s 737 MAX engines, Boeing is also being asked to provide proof multiple subsystems on the aircraft would not be affected by the electrical grounding issues that have seen nearly 25% of the worldwide 737 MAX fleet grounded.

Another setback for the 737 MAX

It is a setback for the Boeing 737 MAX program and the airlines that fly the plane. Reports had suggested airlines were expecting service bulletins addressing the grounding issues imminently. That now looks unlikely to happen.

After clearing the aircraft to fly in November 2020 after a twenty-month grounding, this second grounding (albeit not impacting the entire 737 MAX fleet) is putting added pressure on Boeing.

A Flying Mansion: The Boeing 777X Business Jet

After successfully re-entering United States skies and taking some blockbuster orders over the northern 2020/21 winter, Boeing’s 737 MAX looked to be back on track. But in early April, Boeing flagged a potential electrical issue in a specific group of 737 MAX aircraft. Boeing “recommended” 16 airlines sort the problem before letting the planes back into the sky.

Boeing was concerned about the electrical grounding inside a backup power control system. However, there were hopes for a relatively swift fix. A week or two into the grounding, affected airlines were relatively confident their grounded MAXs would soon be flying again.

Between them, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines grounded more than 60 of their 737 MAXs. In April, the airlines were saying they knew what the problem is. They also said they knew what needed to be done about it, and how swiftly the issue could get fixed.


Timelines to return grounded 737 MAXs to service now likely pushed back

But overnight, Reuters reported Boeing is facing further hurdles regarding the grounding. Previously, the FAA has said “subsequent analysis and testing” showed the issue could involve additional systems. Systems flagged include the standby power control unit, a circuit breaker panel, and the main instrument panel.


Now, according to Reuters who cite two sources “familiar with the matter,” US safety regulators want additional documentation and analysis to show the grounding problem originally flagged by Boeing is not affecting other systems on the aircraft.

That indicates the FAA is still someway from drawing a line under the latest drama impacting the 737 MAX. It also suggests US airline bosses may have to cool their heels a while longer than originally planned.

The return to service of grounded MAXs is now likely to take longer. Photo: Boeing

Current 737 MAX grounding impacts nearly 25% of the worldwide fleet

In addition to the three United States-based airlines, other airlines with grounded MAX aircraft include Cayman Airways, Copa Airlines, GOL Linhas Aereas, Icelandair, Minsheng Leasing, Neos Air, Shandong Airlines, SilkAir, SpiceJet, Sunwing Airlines, TUI, Turkish Airlines, Valla Jets Limited, WestJet Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines. All up, over 100 MAXs are on the ground. As of March 31, Boeing had delivered 472 MAXs to customers worldwide.

Meanwhile, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive on Tuesday concerning possible corrosion in some Boeing 737 MAX CFM LEAP-1B engines. The corrosion may have occurred as a consequence of long-term storage.

According to the FAA, there have been multiple reports of pressure sub-system (PSS) unit faults due to corrosion following storage. This can lead to reduced thrust. While not immediately dangerous it does require attention from operators.

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Halt to 737 MAX deliveries stymies Boeing’s recovery effort

May 11, 2021 at 8:00 am Updated May 11, 2021 at 4:46 pm
An Air Force tanker (at right) and two “white tail” 737 MAXs are parked on a short runway at the north end of Paine Field in April. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times) An Air Force tanker (at right) and two “white tail” 737 MAXs are parked on a short runway at the north end of Paine Field in April. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing delivered just four 737 MAXs in April before an electrical problem grounded the jet again, halting further deliveries until a fix is approved. The setback frustrated Boeing’s effort to begin to climb out of the pandemic downturn as air travel slowly recovers.

The company’s monthly update to its jet orders and deliveries figures, posted online Tuesday, otherwise showed marginal progress.

Deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner, which resumed in March after a more than four-month halt due to a separate production quality issue, picked up in April. And while last year was dominated by order cancellations, Boeing for the third straight month showed a small positive net order total.

However, as U.S. airlines look to a recovery in domestic travel, the 737 MAX is the Boeing jet in most demand, so the stoppage in deliveries is a major blow that drastically cuts much-needed cash flow.

Due to a change in the manufacturing process, various panels and power control units on the MAX flight deck built since early 2019 are not properly grounded electrically, which can potentially affect operation of certain systems, including engine ice protection.

The issue affects 109 airplanes that have been delivered to airlines — including Alaska, American, Southwest and United — as well as about 350 still awaiting delivery. Boeing has proposed a fix but none of those planes can fly until the Federal Aviation Administration approves it.

Although late last month Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said on CNBC that he expected FAA approval in “relatively short order,” the safety agency demanded more engineering detail on the proposed modifications. Almost two weeks later, Boeing is still waiting.

Dreamliner deliveries pick up

Boeing delivered a total of 17 aircraft in April. That included 13 widebody jets: nine 787 Dreamliner passenger planes, two 777 freighters, one 767 freighter and one 767 KC-46 that will become an Air Force refueling tanker.

Boeing will have to sharply step up 787 deliveries to reduce the large backlog of about 100 parked planes due for rework that built up both in Everett and South Carolina during the delivery halt.

The company said it anticipates delivering “the majority of these airplanes” this year, in addition to those rolling off the production line at a rate of five jets per month.

On the sales side, Boeing won a net total of eight new orders last month, consisting of 22 new orders and 14 cancellations.

With the air cargo market the only healthy segment of the aviation world during the COVID-19 pandemic air travel downturn, the new orders included one for five 777 freighters from Silk Way West Airlines of Azerbaijan.

The April orders also included an order for 14 new 737 MAXs from lessor Dubai Aerospace Enterprise and three more MAXs for unidentified buyers.

In addition, L.A.-based aircraft lessor Air Lease Corp. renegotiated a contract for three MAXs, canceling its previous order and signing up on new terms.

So far in 2021, Boeing has delivered 94 jets and won 84 net new orders.

European rival Airbus delivered 45 aircraft in April, boosting total deliveries this year to 170 jets.

However, despite a new order from Delta for 25 of its fast-selling, long-range single-aisle jet, the A321neo, Airbus still has more cancellations than new orders in 2021. At the end of April, its net order tally stood at negative 35 jets.

The Airbus delivery advantage is largely due to its ability to deliver more of its single-aisle A320neo family of jets, the rival to Boeing’s 737 MAX.

Airbus delivered 37 single-aisle jets in April: three of the smaller Canadian-designed A220s, three classic A320s, 18 of the new A320neos and 13 A321neos. It also delivered eight widebody jets: six large A350-900s and two midsize A330neos.

The European jet maker also renegotiated the terms of an existing order for 22 jets in the A320neo family with aircraft lessor Avolon.

The A320neo jet family backlog now stands at 5,654 aircraft. The MAX backlog stands at 3,191 aircraft. That huge gap in single-aisle market share, which developed from the crisis after the two fatal MAX crashes, is what separates the two rivals.

Airbus plans to maintain pressure in that market. Bloomberg reports that it has told suppliers to be ready for a ramp-up in production of the A320 jet series from the current 40 per month to as many as 53 a month by the end of next year.

Airbus had earlier set out plans to raise production to 43 A320s per month in the third quarter and 45 by the end of the year.

The 53-jets-per-month target reflects the top end of a range under consideration and no final decision has been taken, according to people familiar with the planning, Bloomberg said.

Boeing CEO Calhoun said last month that 737 production should rise to 31 jets per month early next year, with further gradual increases in line with demand. He also said those increases will depend on the Chinese market opening up to Boeing.

The Airbus total backlog of unfilled orders for all jets is now 6,979 airplanes. Boeing’s corresponding backlog is 4,045 airplanes.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @dominicgates.
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FAA Approves Boeing’s Fix For 737 MAX Electrical Issue (aviationvoice.com)

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FAA has approved Boeing’s fix to an electrical issue for 737 MAX. Due to the problem, over 100 737 MAX aircraft have been grounded since April.

“After gaining final approvals from the FAA, we have issued service bulletins for the affected fleet,” Boeing told Reuters. “We’ll continue to stay close to our customers as they complete the work to return their airplanes to service. We are also completing the work as we prepare to resume deliveries.”

The announcement comes as a relief for the affected U.S. operators as they prepare for the summer season. Southwest, American and United all together removed more than 60 aircraft from service. Other affected airlines are Cayman Airways, GOL, Iceland Air, SilkAir, Spice Jet, TUI, etc.

Boeing has also explained that the upgrades will only require a few days of work after receiving approval.

The grounding due to an electrical problem was already a second setback for the type. Previously, the ban on flying was lifted in November 2020 after almost two years of a standstill after two fatal crashes.

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Press Release – Boeing to Pay at Least $17 Million to Settle Enforcement Cases on 737

For Immediate Release

May 27, 2021
Contact: pressoffice@faa.gov

WASHINGTON — The Boeing Company will pay at least $17 million in penalties and undertake multiple corrective actions with its production under a settlement agreement (PDF) with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA found that the Chicago-based manufacturer installed equipment on 759 Boeing 737 MAX and NG aircraft containing sensors that were not approved for that equipment; submitted approximately 178 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for airworthiness certification when the aircraft potentially had nonconforming slat tracks installed; and improperly marked those slat tracks.

“Keeping the flying public safe is our primary responsibility. That is not negotiable, and the FAA will hold Boeing and the aviation industry accountable to keep our skies safe,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.

Boeing will pay the $17 million penalty within 30 days after signing the agreement. If Boeing does not complete certain corrective actions within specific timeframes, the FAA will levy up to $10.1 million in additional penalties. The corrective actions include but are not limited to:

  • Strengthening procedures to ensure that it does not install on aircraft any parts that fail to conform to their approved design.
  • Performing Safety Risk Management analyses to determine whether its supply-chain oversight processes are appropriate and whether the company is ready to safely increase the Boeing 737 production rate.
  • Revising its production procedures to enable the FAA to observe production rate readiness assessments, the data on which the company bases the assessments, and the results of the assessments.
  • Taking steps to reduce the chance that it presents to the FAA aircraft with nonconforming parts for airworthiness certification or a Certificate of Export.
  • Enhancing processes to improve its oversight of parts suppliers.

The FAA will continue its oversight of Boeing’s engineering and production activities and is actively implementing oversight provisions from the 2020 Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act.  

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Citing a serious flight test incident and lack of design maturity, FAA slows Boeing 777X certification
June 27, 2021 at 6:00 am
Two 777X flight-test planes are parked at Boeing Field on June 18. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Dominic Gates By Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter

In yet another blow to Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration last month formally denied the jet maker permission to move forward with a key step in certifying its forthcoming giant widebody airplane, the 777X.

In a sternly worded letter dated May 13, which was reviewed by The Seattle Times, the FAA warned Boeing it may have to increase the number of test flights planned and that certification realistically is now more than two years out, probably in late 2023.

That could push the jet’s entry into commercial service into early 2024, four years later than originally planned.

The FAA cited a long litany of concerns, including a serious flight control incident during a test flight on Dec. 8, 2020, when the plane experienced an “uncommanded pitch event” — meaning the nose of the aircraft pitched abruptly up or down without input from the pilots.

Boeing has yet to satisfy the FAA that it has fully understood and corrected what went wrong that day.

The letter was signed by Ian Won, the manager of the local FAA office that judges whether Boeing has met all regulatory standards. He also told Boeing that a critical avionics system proposed for the airplane does not meet requirements.

And he expressed concern about proposed modifications involving late changes to both software and hardware in the electronics of the jet’s flight controls.

“The aircraft is not yet ready,” Won wrote. “The technical data required for type certification has not reached a point where it appears the aircraft type design is mature and can be expected to meet the applicable regulations.”

An FAA official, who asked not to be identified in order to speak freely, said the drag on 777X certification is now “the subject of a lot of attention” at high levels both within the agency and at Boeing.

Boeing’s last all-new jet, the 787, had to be grounded in 2013 when its batteries smoldered in flight. The next new plane, the derivative 737 MAX, was grounded for 21 months starting in 2019 after flawed new flight controls caused two fatal crashes.

Now the forthcoming 777X is having a troubled certification process. Is this just the FAA getting tough because of all the scrutiny?

The FAA official said that even if the MAX crashes hadn’t happened, the list of serious issues now raised about the 777X would merit rigorous regulatory attention.

Within the FAA, the person said, “there’s a general feeling that Boeing has kind of lost a step,” referring to the slide away from a historic reputation for engineering prowess.

And because of all the missteps, the official added, “the days of Boeing being able to say to the FAA ‘Just trust us’ are long gone.”

In a statement Friday, Boeing said it “remains fully focused on safety as our highest priority throughout 777X development.”
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The airplane is undergoing “a comprehensive test program to demonstrate its safety and reliability … to ensure we meet all applicable requirements,” Boeing added.

The FAA in a statement said safety drives its decisions and timelines.

“The FAA will not approve any aircraft unless it meets our safety and certification standards,” the agency said.

FAA exasperated

Boeing launched the 777X at the Dubai Air Show in the fall of 2013, and at that time targeted 2020 as the year it would enter service.

Set to replace the Boeing 747 jumbo and Airbus A380 superjumbo passenger planes — which are no longer built — as the largest airliner in production, the 777X is a stretch version of the successful 777 passenger airliner featuring a new, superlong, carbon composite wing with folding tips and the largest jet engines ever built.

Boeing invested more than $1 billion in a new composites fabrication plant in Everett to build the wings.

Inside the main Everett assembly building, Boeing also installed state-of-the-art, automated stations to robotically assemble the wings — equipment designed by Mukilteo-based engineering company Electroimpact — and completely changed the way the 777 fuselage and wings come together to make assembly more flexible and efficient.

The first of two 777X models and the largest — the 777-9X, which carries 426 passengers in a two-class configuration — made its first flight in January 2020, kicking off the test flight program.

By now, four test planes are flying out of Boeing Field and at least 17 more 777Xs destined for customers Emirates, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and All Nippon Airways have rolled out of the factory.

Boeing will have to park those production aircraft and any more built from now through at least late 2023 until certification allows their delivery.

The FAA’s letter on the status of 777X certification is addressed to Tom Galantowicz, the head of Boeing’s internal organization consisting of engineers and managers who act as proxies for the federal agency, tasked with testing and verifying that a new airplane design meets safety standards.

The letter denies Boeing a specific approval for the 777-9X called “Type Inspection Authorization” readiness. Without this, Boeing cannot put FAA personnel on board flight tests and begin to collect certification data.

The wording suggests a degree of exasperation with Boeing pushing for TIA when the FAA deems it far from ready.

“The FAA and Boeing have been discussing the TIA readiness of the Boeing Model 777-9 in numerous meetings over the past nine months,” the letter reads, adding that despite Boeing’s assertion that proceeding with TIA “warrants consideration,” the FAA in contrast “considers that the aircraft is not yet ready.”

The letter then lists a host of shortfalls in Boeing’s readiness.

FAA demands data, not promises

Asked about the test flight that experienced the “uncommanded pitch event” in December, Boeing said the plane went on to land safely and that engineers investigated the root cause and have developed a major software update to fix the problem.

In the meantime, until that’s approved, Boeing has given the test pilots instructions on how to avoid the incident recurring so that test flights can continue.

Yet the FAA clearly isn’t satisfied with Boeing’s promise of a software fix.

“After the uncommanded pitch event, the FAA is yet to see how Boeing fully implements all the corrective actions identified by the root cause investigation,” the letter reads.

“Software load dates are continuously sliding and the FAA needs better visibility into the causes of the delays,” it states.

To confirm “the maturity and safety/airworthiness of the aircraft,” the FAA demands comprehensive and documented reviews of the changes resulting from the investigation into the incident, to ensure that a similar problem “will not happen in the future and this is not a systemic issue.”

The FAA separately highlights concern over a critical piece of new avionics on the jet — the Common Core System, a set of shared computing resources critical to the functioning of multiple airplane systems.

Won notes that Galantowicz conceded in a letter to the FAA earlier in May that the CCS has incomplete software and does not meet TIA requirements.

Citing a “lack of data” and the absence of a Preliminary Safety Assessment for the FAA to review, the agency’s letter declares that Boeing hasn’t even met its own process requirements.

Boeing’s CCS “review dates have continuously slid over a year,” the letter notes.

In turning down the 777X for TIA readiness, the FAA also cited a finding that the supplier of the avionics provided “inadequate peer review” in a safety analysis “resulting in inconsistencies … and incorrect reuse of 787 data.”

GE Aviation’s plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, supplies the CCS, which builds upon the similar common core avionics system it designed for the 787.

GE, which touts the CCS as the “central nervous system and brain” of the airplane, deferred comment to Boeing.
Demand for 777X currently near zero

Another problem for the FAA is Boeing’s proposal of late changes to the 777X flight control system.

“Boeing is proposing modifications that will involve firmware and hardware changes to the actuator controls electronics of the Flight Control System,” the FAA states. “Boeing needs to ensure the changes do not introduce new, inadvertent failures modes.”

Other pending modifications to the design of systems around the jet’s horizontal tail or stabilizer, which controls the pitch of the airplane, will change the crew alerts that flag certain system failures.

“Design maturity is in question as design changes are ongoing and potentially significant,” the letter states.

Separately, the letter states in passing that the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has also “not yet agreed on a way forward” with regard to 777X certification.

In an emailed response Friday, EASA spokesperson Janet Northcote said the agency is “cooperating closely with the FAA” on 777X certification.

“We are looking closely at the technical files with the FAA and Boeing and this work is still ongoing,” she said.

The FAA’s letter told Boeing that because of the gaps in the 777X technical data, it anticipates a significant increase in the required level of testing and analysis, “and the potential to increase the number of certification flight tests that will need to take place.”

The letter concludes by requesting that Galantowicz’s unit “close these gaps” before submitting any further requests for TIA approval and that “based on the information from Boeing,” 777X certification is realistically more than two years out, in “mid to late 2023.”

Ironically, the only positive for Boeing in this situation is that — because of the pandemic’s destruction of international air travel demand — no airline in the world wants a 777X right now.

When international travel begins to pick up again post-pandemic, airlines will begin service with smaller jets like Boeing’s long-range 787 until long-haul air travel gradually returns to a level approaching what was typical in 2019.

Yet at a Bernstein Research industry conference this month, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun doubled down on the 777X despite all the setbacks. Once the jet is certified, he said, “it will have a 40- or 50-year run, and I think it will be one of the great runs of all time.”

“I have lots of confidence in it,” Calhoun said. “We love it.”

Boeing’s website lists 320 orders for the 777X, though because of the delays airline customers will have the option to cancel some of those and may switch to smaller Boeing jets.

Dubai-based Emirates, the largest 777X customer, reduced its initial order for 150 aircraft to 115, swapping out 35 of the 777Xs for 30 much less expensive 787s.

The original 777 flight test program in the mid 1990s, from first flight to certification, took 10 months. For the 737 MAX, that period was just over 13 months. During the problem-ridden and much delayed development of the 787, first flight to certification took just over 20 months.

The 777X is currently set to reach certification almost four years after first flight.

Citing the delays in getting the plane certified, Emirates airline President Tim Clark has said he doesn’t expect any 777X deliveries until 2024.

Realistically, that’s the earliest any global carrier might want to take delivery of such a huge aircraft. Four years late, that’s when the 777X may finally be ready.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @dominicgates.


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This story says the latest directive is about banning flammable cargo in the cargo hold, I always thought of baggage as being part and parcel of the cargo load.  


WASHINGTON, Aug 5 (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday issued a new safety directive for Boeing (BA.N) 737 Next Generation (NG) and MAX airplanes to address a potential issue with reduced fire suppression capabilities.

The FAA said planes may have a failed electronic flow control of the air conditioning packs that vent air into the cargo hold from other areas of the plane. The directive prohibits operators from transporting cargo in the cargo hold if airplanes are operating with this condition unless they can verify items are nonflammable and noncombustible.

The FAA said the directive covers all Boeing 737 8, 737 9, and 737 8200 MAX airplanes and some 737-800 and 737-900ER series airplanes.

Boeing did not immediately comment.

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The airworthiness directive impacts 663 airplanes registered in the United States and approximately 2,204 worldwide.

Operators must comply with this directive beginning 10 days after date of publication.


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