Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Boeing 737 MAX on the cusp of certification

The planemaker Boeing is all set to get regulatory approval for its troubled 737 MAX aircraft that has been grounded for more than a year after two deadly crashes and numerous safety issues. 

According to media reports,  the Federal Aviation Administration was in the final stages of preparing its report on the plane's airworthiness and could give the jet the green light to take to the skies this Wednesday. 

European regulators have also been reviewing the data and performing test flights themselves, eager to avoid the rubber-stamping of the US authority this time around. Various reports indicate they are also close to granting permission to fly, whilst other nations' safety boards are in advanced stages of the certification process. 

Even if the aircraft does get certification this week, it will be at about a month before it returns to regular commercial flights, as pilots will need to undergo proper training on the jet including the flawed MCAS system, including a simulator session.  That extra training is said to take approximately 30 days, so maybe, all being well the 737 MAX could be in the Christmas schedules for the US airlines, American has already provisionally posted an in-service date of December 29th. 

However,  this is not the best time to be relaunching an aircraft, especially one with a name that's associated with deadly crashes and faulty technology.   Many voices, both inside and outside the aviation industry have stated the best course of action would be to change the name or just drop the MAX completely. Even outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue last year,  saying "I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name.".

He's not alone, major European customer Ryanair, has been slowly dropping the MAX name,  preferring to call it a 'Gamechanger' aircraft and having the word MAX removed from the nose of its jets.  Leasing firms also believe the MAX name should be dropped, whilst Air Canada and Enter Air have adopted the 737-8 designation. According to Reuters, American Airlines have reprinted seat pocket safety cards without the MAX name, perhaps the first step along the road to wipe the slate clean and consign MAX to the wastebin.

On top of name worries, there are tariffs to worry about, at least for European customers after the European Union has now imposed a $4 billion of annual tariff on U.S. imports in response to the heightened trade tensions after Trump imposed charges on European goods and Airbus aircraft. Ryanair has indicated that it expects Boeing to pick up the tab for the extra costs, of both more pilot training and trade tariffs.  


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