Boeing hopes that their 737 Max airplane will finally win approval to return to flying in 2020. It was grounded globally following two crashes that took hundreds of lives.
Even if government officials provide the go-ahead to let the aircraft get back to work, it will take several months of consistent flying for passengers to trust it.
Entire plane models have been placed out-of-service before, such as Boeing’s 787 in 2013 and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 in 1979. These issues were for maintenance or mechanical problems.
With the 737 Max, Boeing faces the issue of rewriting the entire code on the flight computer. Then pilots must retrain on the updated software to ensure it is safe to fly in the aircraft.
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Why is This Process Taking so Long to Complete?
Boeing faces several issues in their efforts to bring the 737 Max back to the skies. The first and most critical problem is the fact that only a handful of simulators exist for the aircraft. That means the retraining process will be slow and methodical.
Most of the pilot’s unions are taking a wait-and-see approach to how the Federal Aviation Administration reacts to the latest efforts from Boeing.
Proposals for training modules are starting to filter down to the various airlines that purchase the 737 Max. There is still uncertainty in whether simulator requirements will be necessary or if computer-based efforts will be enough to create comfort in the cockpit.
Over 30,000 flight cancellations happened in 2019 for American Airlines by itself, with an estimated $700 million in lost revenues. Those losses get duplicated for every other organization that purchased this model from Boeing around the world.
Despite the issues with this aircraft, American Airlines reported a $425 million quarterly profit in October 2019. The company said that the results should “have been better” due to the impacts of this software issue, but significant labor disputes were also part of the process.
Boeing now has a new CEO to help the company navigate through this process. The company also recently hired a new head of commercial aviation. Even with these changes, questions linger about the communications and management issues that led to problems with the 737 Max in the first place.
The damage won’t stop once the airplane returns to the skies. Boeing will be responsible for billions of dollars in payments to crash victims and compensation for lost revenues.