Boeing’s 737 MAX won’t fly again until 2021 after the fleet was grounded when 346 people died in two separate crashes because of regulatory holdups and final FAA approvals

  • The grounded 737 MAX, blamed for two crashes that killed 346 people, won’t likely fly again until next year, say government and industry officials
  • A public comment period ends in November, while pilot training, maintenance checks and final FAA approvals won’t come until well into December
  • The aircraft has been grounded impacting airlines across the world after the deadly crashes of MAX planes going back almost two years 
  • The first, Lion Air flight JT 610 fell into the Java Sea 15 minutes after taking off from Jakarta on October 29, 2018
  • The second, Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, crashed shortly after take off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital on March 10, 2019

The grounded 737 MAX, blamed for two crashes that killed 346 people, will probably not return into commercial service until next year,  government and industry officials said.

While a public comment period on software and hardware changes won’t be closed until November, pilot training, maintenance checks and final FAA approvals are still not expected to be finished until well into December, officials told the Wall Street Journal.

It remains possible that the aircraft type could be brought back into service sooner, the same officials told the Journal. However, a sooner return isn’t what observers keeping a close eye on the process expect.  

At least one airline won’t be returning the aircraft into service any earlier than mid-December according to its schedule, a person with knowledge of the timing told the Journal. 

The grounded 737 MAX, blamed for two crashes that killed 346 people, will probably not return into commercial service until next year, say government and industry officials. Workers at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, plant are pictured working on a MAX jet

The aircraft has been grounded impacting airlines across the world after the deadly crashes of MAX planes in Indonesia in 2018 and in Ethiopia the following year. Pictured are grounded MAX aircraft at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, last month

Problems with ground simulator training for a select group of international pilots also may present further delays. 

Investigators probing the cause of the deadly crashes from almost two years ago have focused on a flight-control system, new to the Max, that pushed the nose of both planes down based on faulty readings from sensors. 

Boeing has been working to fix the system and make other changes since shortly after the first crash in Indonesia in October 2018. The aircraft type was grounded after a second MAX plane crashed after take off from Ethiopia in May 2019.

Chicago-based Boeing was struggling before the coronavirus pandemic hit because of the grounding of the MAX — once its best-selling plane. 

The coronavirus compounded the company’s problems by causing a deep slump in air travel that has left airlines around the world with too many planes, not a need for more. 

Boeing was forced to ground the MAX after the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia happened less than six months apart.

The first disaster happened October 29, 2018, when a MAX flying as Lion Air flight JT 610 fell into the Java Sea 15 minutes after taking off from Jakarta.

All 189 aboard the plane died, including 180 Indonesians, one Italian and one Indian.

The second crash occurred on March 10, 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302, which also was a MAX jet, took off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital and crashed.

Boeing was forced to ground the MAX after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia happened less than six months apart. Pictured are remains from the first from October 29, 2018, when a MAX flying as Lion Air flight JT 610 fell into the Java Sea 15 minutes after taking off from Jakarta

The second crash occurred on March 10, 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302, which also was a MAX jet, took off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital and crashed. Pictured are remains at the crash scene of the doomed flight

US carriers American, United and Southwest had to cancel flights for the holidays, including over Christmas and into the new year, after the plane was grounded around the world.  

Boeing reported July 14 that customers canceled orders for 60 of the grounded 737 MAX jets in June. The aircraft maker removed another 123 planes from its backlog over doubts that the deals will be completed.

The slump in aircraft sales extends across the Atlantic. European rival Airbus reported no new orders in June.

American Airlines is demanding that Boeing help it find financing for 17 MAX jets that the airline expected to receive at least a year ago. Last month, Norwegian Air Shuttle announced that it plans to cancel its remaining order for 92 of the planes, saying that it had not settled with Boeing over compensation for the grounding of its current MAX jets.

American Airlines is demanding that Boeing help it find financing for 17 MAX jets that the airline expected to receive at least a year ago. Several of the carrier’s 737 MAX jets are pictured grounded at Tulsa International Airport

Boeing’s lone sale last month was a cargo jet ordered by FedEx. That compared with nine orders a year ago and 158 in June 2018.

So far this year, Boeing has recorded 59 new orders. That figure is dwarfed, however, by 382 cancellations – most of them abandoned orders for the MAX – and the downgrading of 323 other orders because of uncertainty about the deals going through. 

The company’s backlog of unfilled orders for passenger planes fell to 4,552, including 3,595 for 737s, a figure which includes both the MAX and an older version of the plane called the NG.

Boeing Co. delivered 10 planes in June, compared with 37 a year earlier.

Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith said Boeing´s defense and other businesses “will continue to provide some stability as we navigate through the pandemic and rebuild stronger on the other side.”

Airbus was shut out for new orders, but the European plane maker said it delivered 36 passenger jets in June, including 31 of its A320neo jets, which compete with the MAX. Airbus said it ended June with a backlog of 7,584 planes.

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