Boeing May Have Broken the 737 Max Order Logjam

Aerospace giant is not out of the woods just yet.

Boeing orders still lag far behind rival Airbus for 2019.Boeing

For Boeing, 2019 has evolved into the worst year for the company’s reputation in its history, beginning of course with the grounding last March of the 737 Max over the airplane’s faulty MCAS (maneuvering characteristics augmentation system). Since then, the company has continued building new 737 Max aircraft at the rate of 42 per month and currently is running out of places to store the undelivered airplanes. Next to no orders for new Max aircraft had been announced in 2019 through October. United Airlines in fact, recently extended its grounding of the Max thru March 2020, essentially a year from the date of the initial removal from service.

Adding to the company’s issues now: Boeing will need to reinforce the 737 NG engine and fan cowlings following an NTSB recommendation based on the Board’s investigation of last year’s engine explosion aboard an NG that killed a passenger. Boeing recently announced a delay to the long-awaited 777X program that means deliveries won’t begin until at least 2021. Then there was Boeing CEO Denis Muilenberg’s testimony on The Hill earlier this month to explain his company’s interaction with the FAA during the initial certification of the Max.

This week however, a bit of sunshine began breaking through the year-long Boeing overcast when new orders for the beleaguered 737 Max were announced at the Dubai Airshow in mid November. First Air Astana, a Kazakhstan air carrier announced a letter of intent for 30 737 Max jets, while Turkish carrier Sun Express signed up for 10 more despite not yet having received a single airframe from an earlier order. Boeing also received a firm order for 20 737 Max airplanes from an undisclosed buyer. Additionally, the company in Dubai also announced orders for 34 787s.

While the recent orders are good news for Boeing, the Chicago-based aerospace giant is hardly out of the woods. Rival Airbus is credited with nearly three quarters of the 300 orders announced so far at Dubai. No approval has yet been formally announced for the Max, because the FAA’s new administrator Steve Dickson recently noted the agency and its personnel are in no hurry to certify the Max as fit to fly, at least not until everyone is absolutely certain the aircraft and its systems will not again be the subject of another accident or incident.