One of the worst crises in Boeing’s history appears to be coming to an end
The U.S. manufacturer delivered a total of 43 737 MAX aircraft in June, the highest number since March 2019, a month in which 346 people died in two crashes involving the aforementioned model.
Since then, the Boeing 737 MAX remained grounded for nearly two years, during which time regulators conducted a thorough review of the aircraft and required a series of safety changes to recertify it. Thus, after several test flights, in December 2020 it gradually began flying again.
Those months were chaotic for Boeing, which not only faced a million-dollar fine and economic losses, but also saw the board of directors announce the resignation of its CEO and airlines cancel a large part of their orders, forcing it to use employee parking to locate undelivered 737 Maxs.
Now, all indications are that confidence in Boeing is returning. The company delivered 43 Boeing 737 MAXs in June this year, which translates into 181 such aircraft delivered in the first half of 2022, up from 105 delivered in the same period last year.
One of the new aircraft has been received by Ethiopian Airlines, the carrier in the March 10, 2019 crash that killed 157 people, a purchase that has been criticized by the lawyer for the victims’ families. Lion Air, the other airline involved in a fatal crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX, which on October 29, 2018 left 189 people dead, has not taken delivery of aircraft of this model again.
The U.S. manufacturer also claims to have reached the planned monthly manufacturing target of the 737 MAX, which was 31 aircraft. In addition, the company said it received 43 new orders in June. This combination of factors directly impacted investors, causing the stock to rise more than 8% after the announcement.
But the company still faces a major challenge with one of the variants of this aircraft. Boeing President Dave Calhoun told Aviation Week that they may be forced to cancel the 737 MAX 10, an aircraft intended to compete with the Airbus a321 Neo, altogether.
The problem? The aircraft must meet a series of new cabin requirements to obtain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification. However, this would make the 737 MAX 10 different from the rest of the models in the same family, forcing airlines to do additional training for their pilots that would drive up costs and detract from advantages over competitors.
But that’s not all. Boeing has also gone 12 months without delivering a single Boeing 787 Dreamliner, its flagship widebody (twin-aisle) aircraft. In this case, the FAA is conducting an evaluation of production processes and is not allowing delivery of aircraft waiting to join airline fleets.
At the moment, the U.S. regulator has not set a possible date for approval, which jeopardizes the backlog of Boeing 787 orders. If it continues to be delayed, airlines may consider turning to Boeing’s biggest rival, Airbus.