Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft can’t seem to have enough of the trouble. After being grounded on March 13, 2019, the airframe maker shut down the 737 assembly line, only the second time in its long history, as assembled aircraft piled up across all of Boeing facilities in Washington state. Not just that, Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems too had about 100 fuselages piling up at their end.
While the last update we received was expecting the aircraft to fly in the first quarter of 2020, which was a jump from sometime late 2019, Boeing has now issued official guidance, postponing the entry of the aircraft to mid-2020. As per the Boeing statement,
We are informing our customers and suppliers that we are currently estimating that the ungrounding of the 737 MAX will begin during mid-2020. This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process. It is subject to our ongoing attempts to address known schedule risks and further developments that may arise in connection with the certification process. It also accounts for the rigorous scrutiny that regulatory authorities are rightly applying at every step of their review of the 737 MAX’s flight control system and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board process which determines pilot training requirements.
There are many hurdles still to cross with the Boeing 737 MAX. Here are a few that come to mind:
- The proving/certification flights have not been conducted yet for the aircraft. Once the FAA approves the plane, other regulators will take their own time to reassess and recertify the aircraft.
- Boeing is now recommending simulator training for the pilots before they become certified for the 737 MAX. Not enough simulators are going around. The only one in Asia, for instance, was at the Boeing Training Facility in Singapore last I knew of. Airlines might own some, I know of Southwest, American Airlines and United owning a few.
- Putting mandatory Sim training would mean even after the aircraft is approved for entry into service, pilots would have to be recertified before they are authorised to operate the aircraft.
Just a few days ago, the US operators of the aircraft, including American, United and Southwest, had moved their MAX schedules to June, and it seems they will have to do so again. In the meanwhile, back home in India, SpiceJet will also have to plan for a stunted growth as they have 13 aircraft which are not flying at the moment. SpiceJet has about another 180 or so on order not delivered to them.
That should mean even if the plane came through in June 2020, the Indian airline will still have to wait till August or September, or perhaps even later, to have their aircraft and pilots ready to induct the jet back into their fleet. The big if is the schedule of the plane gaining approval again.