Aviation History

Correspondent, Emma Rasmussen

Grounded since March of 2019 after two fatal airline crashes, the troubled Boeing 737MAX is inching ever closer to entering scheduled airline service again. Boeing CEO David Calhoun announced on Wednesday, Oct. 28 that the troubled airliner is nearing the end of its grounding, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to sign off on the aircraft sometime during the fourth quarter. In September, Boeing’s proposed fixes were endorsed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The European Union Aviation Safety Agency, Europe’s primary aviation regulator, has also endorsed the upgrades made to the 737MAX and is poising to allow its return to European skies. Currently, the FAA is in the final review stages of the aircraft after making additional recommendations to Boeing. 

The damage is done, however. “The MAX has cost us a lot of money,” said David Calhoun. Unable to ship the airliners to their customers due to the grounding, Boeing has revised its delivery pace for 2021. “The company now anticipates that next year it will deliver about half of the 450 MAX it stockpiled amid the type’s grounding,” FlightGlobal said of Boeing’s delivery quandary. To cope with these difficulties, Boeing is cutting its workforce by up to twenty percent by the end of 2021.

Coupled with lost profits and intense media scrutiny, the deepening COVID-19 crisis has further harmed Boeing’s financial reports. For the fourth straight quarter in a row, Boeing reported continued financial losses. Boeing shares fell almost five percent. Whether or not the Boeing 737MAX will make a full financial turnaround for Boeing remains a mystery. However, airlines must focus on winning back the trust of the flying public for 737MAX operations. Anticipating a return to service by the end of the year, American Airlines has added the 737MAX to its schedules for December. 

Plans to implement a marketing campaign where passengers can tour the 737MAX and have Q&A sessions with the pilots were revealed in an American Airlines meeting with executives. 737MAX tours will be available in Dallas and other select locations. American Airlines has also made a point of making sure passengers know they will be flying a 737MAX when they book a flight operated by the type. Passengers can move their flights free of charge, and the American Airlines booking system has been designed such that customers will not be placed on another 737MAX upon rebooking.

American Airlines plans to fly the 737MAX as soon as Thanksgiving in a series of test flights with company employees on board only. American Airlines CEO David Seymour believes the 737MAX ban will be lifted mid-November. Airlines will soon have to begin the laborious task of doing thorough maintenance inspections of the aircraft that haven’t flown in over 18 months. American Airlines will also be opening up additional training sessions to MAX pilots as per FAA guidelines. Other airlines anticipate the reintroduction of the type to be in mid-2021.

In the meantime, the 737MAX’s grounding has caused the value and usage of the earlier 737-800 to increase or remain stable, according to FlightGlobal. The value of the Airbus A320, it’s biggest competitor, has fallen roughly thirty-one percent across the global fleet. The 737-800’s value has only dropped ten to fifteen percent. All-Boeing operators are being forced to continue using the 737-800 while awaiting the return of the newer 737MAX. The value of the 737-800 is expected to fall as soon as Boeing resumes mass deliveries of the 737MAX.