Boeing to Suspend 737 Max Production

Boeing announced they are suspending production of the 737 MAX pending re-certification which has moved to 2020. Here is their statement regarding the decision:

“Safely returning the 737 MAX to service is our top priority. We know that the process of approving the 737 MAX’s return to service, and of determining appropriate training requirements, must be extraordinarily thorough and robust, to ensure that our regulators, customers, and the flying public have confidence in the 737 MAX updates. As we have previously said, the FAA and global regulatory authorities determine the timeline for certification and return to service. We remain fully committed to supporting this process. It is our duty to ensure that every requirement is fulfilled, and every question from our regulators answered.

Throughout the grounding of the 737 MAX, Boeing has continued to build new airplanes and there are now approximately 400 airplanes in storage. We have previously stated that we would continually evaluate our production plans should the MAX grounding continue longer than we expected. As a result of this ongoing evaluation, we have decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program beginning next month.

We believe this decision is least disruptive to maintaining long-term production system and supply chain health. This decision is driven by a number of factors, including the extension of certification into 2020, the uncertainty about the timing and conditions of return to service and global training approvals, and the importance of ensuring that we can prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft. We will continue to assess our progress towards return to service milestones and make determinations about resuming production and deliveries accordingly.

During this time, it is our plan that affected employees will continue 737-related work, or be temporarily assigned to other teams in Puget Sound. As we have throughout the 737 MAX grounding, we will keep our customers, employees, and supply chain top of mind as we continue to assess appropriate actions. This will include efforts to sustain the gains in production system and supply chain quality and health made over the last many months.

We will provide financial information regarding the production suspension in connection with our 4Q19 earnings release in late January.”

Last week, FAA Administrator Steve Dixon gave a statement before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the United States House of Representatives. In that statement, Dixon says that the FAA’s return-to-service decision on the 737 MAX rests solely on the FAA’s analysis of the data to determine whether Boeing’s proposed software updates and pilot training address the known issues for grounding the aircraft. He reiterated that the FAA fully controls the approvals process for the flight control systems and is “not delegating anything to Boeing.” Dixon says the FAA will retain authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all new 737 MAX airplanes manufactured since the grounding. “When the 737 MAX is returned to service, it will be because the safety issues have been addressed and pilots have received all of the training they need to safely operate the aircraft,” Dixon says.

More of the FAA Administrator Steve Dixon’s statement:

“Status of the 737 MAX Return-to-Service

Safety is the core of the FAA’s mission and is our first priority.  We are working diligently to ensure that the type of accidents that occurred in Indonesia and Ethiopia—resulting in the tragic loss of 346 lives—do not occur again.  The FAA is following a thorough process for returning the 737 MAX to service.  This process is not guided by a calendar or schedule.  Safety is the driving consideration.  I unequivocally support the dedicated professionals of the FAA in continuing to adhere to a data-driven, methodical analysis, review, and validation of the modified flight control systems and pilot training required to safely return the 737 MAX to commercial service.  I have directed FAA employees to take whatever time is needed to do that work.

With respect to our international partners, the FAA clearly understands its responsibilities as the State of Design for the 737 MAX.  In September, we met with more than 50 invited foreign civil aviation officials, all of whom have provided input to the FAA and will play a role in clearing the 737 MAX for flight in their respective nations.  We are also conducting and planning a number of outreach activities, including providing assistance to support foreign authorities on return-to-service issues; maintaining transparency through communication and information sharing; and scheduling meetings for technical discussions.

As I have stated before, the FAA’s return-to-service decision on the 737 MAX will rest solely on the FAA’s analysis of the data to determine whether Boeing’s proposed software updates and pilot training address the known issues for grounding the aircraft.  The FAA fully controls the approvals process for the flight control systems and is not delegating anything to Boeing.  The FAA will retain authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all new 737 MAX airplanes manufactured since the grounding.  When the 737 MAX is returned to service, it will be because the safety issues have been addressed and pilots have received all of the training they need to safely operate the aircraft.

Actions that must still take place before the aircraft will return to service include a certification flight test and completion of work by the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB), which is comprised of the FAA Flight Standardization Board (FSB) and our international partners from Canada, Europe, and Brazil.  The JOEB will evaluate pilot training needs.  The FSB will issue a report addressing the findings of the JOEB and the report will be made available for public review and comment.  Additionally, the FAA will review all final design documentation, which also will be reviewed by the multi-agency Technical Advisory Board (TAB).  The FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community providing notice of pending significant safety actions and will publish an Airworthiness Directive advising operators of required corrective actions.  Finally, I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until all FAA technical reviews are complete, I fly it myself using my experience as an Air Force and commercial pilot, and I am satisfied that I would put my own family on it without a second thought.”