By Scott Hamilton
Jan. 7, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing internally sees production suspension of the 737 MAX of at least 60 days, LNA has learned.
Then, production is suspended. Boeing publicly has not said how long the suspension will last and it’s unclear how much information has been passed down the supply chain. Without knowing when the FAA will recertify the MAX, Boeing can’t truly gauge when production will resume.
There have been published reports, citing unidentified sources within the Federal Aviation Administration, that the FAA may recertify the MAX as early as mid-February. The same reports, however, suggest certification may not occur until sometime in March.
But even March is only speculative.
The FAA is proceeding slowly and flight testing is going at a snail’s pace, LNA is told. Only one airplane has been authorized for flight testing by the FAA. This compares with three or four normally used by Boeing for tests of this nature.
Also, issues unrelated directly to the MCAS continue to arise.
A flaw in the Flight Control Computer, or FCC, system was identified months ago. A failure mode was identified in a highly unlikely set of circumstances. Nevertheless, with the heightened scrutiny, Boeing and the FAA now have this on a list of things to fix before recertification.
The FCCs on the MAX one could not handle the processing demands ( there are two for redundancy). It’s the same FCCs used from the classic days.
Boeing changes in the software code requiring that both will now be turned on to manage the demand. Both are now required for dispatch; the aircraft can no longer be a Minimum Equipment List item for one unit
Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that Boeing discovered a wiring safety issue with the MAX and reported it to the FAA. At this point, it’s unclear how serious the issue is and what the remedy may be. Nevertheless, it’s another box to check before MAX can be recertified.
Also over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that in a reversal from its previous position, the FAA may decide to require flight simulator training before the MAX can return to service in the US. Transport Canada previously said it was leaning in this direction. Europe’s EASA hasn’t taken a public position on the issue.
If the FAA requires sim training, return to service will be delayed even after recertification, and this, too, will delay restarting production.
Last month, Seattle radio station KUOW published a Boeing graphic that showed only two of 12 steps toward recertification and return to service had been completed.
These yet-to-do lists and the new developments raise additional questions over the timeline to restart production.
Furthermore, Boeing has run out of places to park new-production aircraft if production outpaces deliveries.
Boeing Field, Paine Field, Moses Lake and Renton Airport in Washington as well as Boeing’s facility in San Antonio (TX) are full or nearly so.
Boeing wants to add Victorville (CA) to its authorized storage facilities, but lacks FAA authority to make this a major storage area, LNA is told. Boeing needs what’s called PC 700 certification authority.
PC 700 is Boeing’s FAA-issued Production Certificate.
Boeing has asked the FAA for this authority to cover Victorville, but this, too, is in process, LNA is told.
All airplanes prior to title transfer (delivery) are owned by Boeing and therefore fall under the PC 700 certificate authority. Boeing had to get PC 700 approval by the FAA to store planes at San Antonio and Moses Lake. Once issued, the FAA provides oversight and audits.
With all these factors casting continued uncertainty over the recertification of the MAX, restarting production appears highly unlikely though March—90 days from now. Internally, Boeing so far doesn’t see production restarting through February.
It’s also likely production won’t re-start in March.