Pontifications: Critical step in Boeing MAX recertification target: May

By Scott Hamilton

March 30, 2020, © Leeham News: Barring further issues, the FAA Type Inspection Authorization for the MAX is targeted for the second half of May, LNA learned.

This is a critical step in recertifying the airplane.

Also barring more unexpected events in a year filled with them, Boeing should resume production of the 737 MAX in May, LNA confirmed.

Major step toward recertification

The TIA “is used to authorize official conformity, airworthiness inspections, and flight tests necessary to fulfill certain requirements for Type Certificate (TC), Supplemental Type Certificate (STC), amended TC, and amended STC certification,” an FAA description indicates.

This depends on the certification flight. The coronavirus crisis may upend all schedules.

Barring any upheavals, certification is now targeted for late June or early July. This timeline fits with Boeing’s plan to resume production in May, about two months ahead of certification. Parties hope for concurrent certification between the FAA, Europe’s EASA and Transport Canada.

The supply chain should begin shipping materials to Boeing in April, including new fuselages from Spirit AeroSystems.

Initial Low Rate Production

Restarting the MAX line will be at what’s called Initial Low Rate Production.

In February, LNA revealed the planned start up and ramp up, based on an April restart date. Events, including the virus, delayed this timeline. It’s believed this remains essentially the plan.

Deliveries of the 400+ stored airplanes were expected to begin shortly after certification was received. But the virus crisis essentially shut down the world’s air transportation system as borders were closed by governments and passenger traffic within countries all but dried up. Remaining passenger flights were lucky to have 10%-20% load factors.

This throws into question delivery opportunities for Airbus, Boeing and Embraer. LNA previously examined these uncertainties.

It’s been assumed that Boeing will be particularly hurt by the virus, given the stored airplanes. It’s widely known that most MAX customers may cancel contracts after 12 months of a delivery delay.

To be sure, this is an issue facing Boeing that does not face Airbus or Embraer.

Tendering airplanes to customers

But an analysis by LNA shows that about half the stored airplanes have yet to cross the 12 month threshold and none of the airplanes sold for 2020 deliveries will meet this test. Boeing legally could tender about 200 stored airplanes, and all new-production models (including wide-bodies) to customers, who by contract are obligated to accept them.

Physically, Boeing won’t be able to tender all 200 of the stored airplanes and stay within the 12 month timeline. It’s been widely publicized, by Wall Street analysts and others, that delivery of the stored airplanes at best will probably be a maximum of 25/mo after an initial lower rate.

Boeing must bring the airplanes out of storage and ensure airworthiness. It’s also dealing with Foreign Object Debris (FOD) left in fuel tanks and other areas that must be removed after inspection. LNA is told about 70% of the airplanes inspected so far have FOD.

While Boeing will be entitled to tender airplanes to customers, whether they will take them is another matter.

After 9/11, Southwest Airlines accepted deliveries but the planes went straight into desert storage. But then, airlines still were able to generate revenue and carry passengers. Now, there is virtually no revenue and very few passengers.

What will this look like by July, assuming the MAX is recertified?

There is no answer.


75 Comments on “Pontifications: Critical step in Boeing MAX recertification target: May

  1. It may be only half of the MAXs as is but what happens if airlines choose to take advantage of Chapter 11 (or equivalents, jurisdiction dependent) and through that cancel contracts for near term deliveries? There are of course many brakes on this apporach (social pressure on brand, any governmental assistance, retribution fears over access to production in the future etc.).

    • The dysfunctional protection that Chap11 provides is afaik limited to the US legal domain.

      • End of May is wishful thinking. The virus situation is controlling everything. The “low rate of production” idea I do see happening which can see Boeing squealing about that because the mentality is they’re going to deliver as many as aircraft as possible to the North American customers first. The FAA has already let it be known it’ll be a low number of deliveries occuring once it starts and it’ll be the FAA that personally does the final walkthrough inspection of each individual aircraft, not Boeing. And we all know how quickly the federal government works.
        Lastly, Boeing still hasn’t announced privately and publicly what it plans to do with it’s workforce after the “suspended operations” phase is through which on paper ends 7 April 2020. The latest rumor is layoffs of its workforce will start at the end of April.
        The one thing overriding all is, will airlines be in a position to accept new aircraft into their fleets, which have mostly been grounded and with huge profit losses. If the flying public gives backlash and refusal to fly towards the MAX aircraft, what will they do then?

      • @Uwe,

        Chapter 11 actually isn’t “dysfunctional” at all. It provides an orderly process to ensure a company can (potentially) function again. Usually shareholders (“owners”) of the company get wiped out but bond (debt) holders make get something back for their investments. Practically any investments have risks.

        Its not a government bailout either. Courts, etc. get their service fees, etc.

        • that is (your) theory.
          delisted/not publicly traded but not worthless either.
          they definitely don’t vanish. With “good” chapt11 handling shares can retain or even gain.
          the haircut is applied to all those that hold claims ( be that unpaid bills or future pensions.)

          In reality things appear to go a different direction.
          Usually the first thing going is money only held in escrow: pension funds. ( add in that the pensions system in the US is rather broken.)

          • @Uwe,

            Your first comment was basically a reiteration of my comment. Of course, what I stated was in “theory” and not something which happens all of the time.

            To say that “In reality things appear to go a different direction.” would be false.

            Yes, a number of companies, including carriers such as DL and UA had to have their pensions taken over by the PBGC but that is not the case in all (if not most) chapter 11 bankruptcies.

            Chapter 11 might not be the most efficient nor best way of restructuring, however it has worked.


      • Clearly Ch.11 is USA specific but the USA is not alone in having provision for dealing with contracts under bankruptcy and/or insolvency. I haven’t read up on the circumstances in specific countries but a quick Google came up wth a useful guide at https://www.bakermckenzie.com/-/media/files/expertise/banking-finance/bk_globalrestructuringinsolvencyguide_20170307.pdf?la=en. I’ve no idea how thorough it is on contracts but a simple search for ‘contract’ found relevant info as early in alpha as Austria (” the insolvency administrator has the option to either fulfil the debtor’s obligations under the contract or withdraw from the contract within a time period set out by the insolvency court”).

        As for Ch.11, I don’t find it straightforward dysfunctional.

          • I disagree. It is abused, it offers unfair advantage and so on. It ought to better. But the sense behind it, that it is better for a significant part of an enterprise to remain active and viable, providing a useful product/service, providing employment, being able to actually get creditors some of their money, avoiding disruption etc, I find postive.

          • In the recent spate of major airline bankruptcies going back a decade or so, the main “set-up” of the procedure was perfected by the King of Bankruptcy – Continental Airlines. So adept at preserving equity for the major players, the Continental Airlines executives and lawyers were hired by other major airlines to handle their bankruptcies. These “legal” procedures were designed to eliminate union contracts and common stock while preserving big money equity. Brilliant and devious, they knew what they were doing as they rearranged plane leases, certain debts and actual equity in gates and real estate. Who said the law is an ass? Brilliant… Ahhh, Frank, the Carls. Now a frequent guest on the financial channels… All legal. No government interference!

        • Canada has the same dumb favouratism of the management who got the enterprise into trouble.

          Canada used to be tougher, management was out and a ‘Receiver’ was appointed by the court to preserve assets, determine viability of the enterprise, and wind it up if that’s what is judged appropriate.

          The appointed ‘Receiver’ was usually an experienced Chartered Accountant.

  2. After the issues with the FAA, EASA will want its own TIA. EASA is unlikely to send a team to the USA until the coronavirus is seen to be under control in both Europe and USA. This makes concurrent certification unlikely.

    All airlines will want the MAXs they already have, reworked and recertified, and their pilots trained on simulators, before they look at accepting new deliveries. This process means that many more MAXs in storage will pass the 12 month delivery deadline.

    • I expect that if the customer requests deferred delivery (that takes the aircraft beyond 12 months), that will not trigger the ability to cancel the order. It would surely be based strictly on Boeing’s (in)ability to deliver within 12 months of schedule.

      This is indeed a perfect storm for Boeing.

      • Remember the stories previously how Boeing was playing hardball with some airlines who had their delivered Maxs grounded. The approach Boeing ( under Muilenberg) was to say ‘Sue Us’

        Now airlines dont want any more Maxs ( or Neos) delivered – well not at the original price negotiated back before the fuel price crash- and the approach is ( Easyjet anyway) is to say ‘Sue Us’.
        Court cases can take years depending on the jurisdiction and appeal options

  3. “LNA is told about 70% of the airplanes inspected so far have FOD.”


      • Because Charleston does not produce 737s, nor does Everette as a matter of fact.

        Of course Everett makes those robust KC-46s (though they are flown to Boeing field for the KC conversion)

        • news about FOD started with KC-46.
          Open when the contaminations were added.
          In intial manufacture or in rework to KC standards.

          What about FOD in context of new built 767 freighters?

    • Sounds accurate, I think that’s mostly from the Renton factory, not Everett or South Carolina.
      Speaking of FOD, that’s been an ongoing issue based on the fact that the quality assurance/control function seems to be not working on the MAX program in Renton.

    • Keep in mind most of those planes were build at reduced output (40 a month instead of 50+).
      70% contain FOD, while (in industrial terms) they’re doing a leisurely walk. Imagine if they were running (planned increase to rate 60).

      I hope Boeing is using the production stop to make a big step in quality control.

      • Don’t hold your breath.

        Boeing is using the production halt to find better spinmisters

      • Can you imagine why it’s going to be like starting up the line again? Everyone will be massively out of practice, there’s potential for a lot of mistakes…

        Quite a lot of car manufacturers, when they’re starting up a line, will run the production system making cars that are inspected in great detail, and then scrapped. The idea is to run it until the fault rate has been measured and is acceptably low.

        It’s a bit more expensive to do that with aircraft of course, but I do wonder if Boeing have the QC capacity to really thoroughly examine the first few off the line? Previously they were failing to spot a 70% FOD rate, so I don’t think they were looking at all…

    • Can LNA speak to what the airlines are required to do to inspect for and remediate FOD on already delivered, previously flying (and now stored) MAXes?
      70% is rather eye popping.

    • Coincidentally, 70% is about the overall infection rate that will be needed for human population to achieve herd immunity against the Coronavirus.

      Despite all efforts, we seem to be headed (globally, not only in my/your country) towards a forced herd immunity outcome. The significant number of cases that are not detected and/or show little or no symptoms will drive the continuing spread.

      • @BernardP

        What is your point? If asymptomatic cases are detected, what presently can be done?


        Are there hospital beds for 70% of mankind?

        ‘Forced’ herd immunity? As opposed to voluntary?

        Improve your health via stronger immunity systems would appear the only useful protection

        • If asymptotic cases are detected, that’s a great result. You wait two weeks in quarantine, then get back to normal life. The immune system will have reacted anyway (without producing the flu like symptoms), immunity will have been built up, and one is no longer able to infect other people.

          • @matthew

            Are there enough hospital beds for the asymptomatic case which are perhaps as much as 50% of all infections, in turn of the 70% of humanity said to be required for herd immunity, that is to say billions of hospital beds perhaps not all at once but closely gathered in time

            If not hospital beds at least hospital wards where such cases can be isolated from the healthy and the sick, yet under medical supervision (or may this not be useful/required?)

            Is this reasonable feasible or even imaginable

            How about more practical solutions? How about reviewing notions of health and health practices?

            Do you think No corrections are to be made, or must be made, to render one and all rather less susceptible to such bugs, and certainly greatly less susceptible to panicking about such bugs

        • Most asymptomatic cases (and some cases with mild symptoms) will go undetected, because people who don’t have symptoms won’t get tested.

          These asymptomatic cases will not be subjected to quarantine and will continue to spread the virus.

          Forced herd immunity means that the virus has already spread too much, and will not be contained, even if all symptomatic cases are identified and quarantined.

          A vaccine will only come in 12 t0 18 months. Other potential treatments, such as chloroquinine, will only be used on symptomatic cases.

          Here is a down-to-earth analysis from an emergency doctor in Colorado. Please note the sentence at the end of the 4th paragraph, which essentially describes forced herd immunity:

          “It is predicted that eventually, nearly everyone will be exposed and been infected.”


          • @BernardP
            If you do not test (widely, random) obviously you will identify very few asymptomatic cases
            Solution is to test, therefore
            The problem – how do you quarantine this far greater number – it does look unfeasible
            Therefore-no solution? Everyone will be infected no matter what is done?
            All that is left now to do is prioritise patients in categories? Or is there a solution?
            Looks like another missed opportunity- one wonders why
            Other countries have been, more or less and so far, successful in containing or restricting
            Why is the US so inadequate inefficient and incompetent about health?

      • Some people are working with dogs so the dogs will bark at corona. If that works it won’t be a matter of beds, it will be a matter of dogs.

        • @Leon

          Oh? Dogs?

          Better watch out

          The bug flipped from dogs to humans, best not to encourage it to flip back again, a lockdown world without a handy supply of local meat is not one you are looking for

  4. Rumour to massage share value seems to be the order of the day….
    Blame Coronavirus but not a Flying Pig with lip stick on only one lip.

    • We are talking Boeing management when we refer to the FP?

      I have to assume that as the 737MAX is a fine aircraft when its not been inflicted with slings and arrows by said management.

      The 787 suffered those same incompetent slings and arrows.

  5. My take is the Airline’s and Boeing will work it out.

    When your customer has one foot on a banana peel I don’t even think Boeing is stupid enough to put the other one under the other foot and then watch all their contract get negated.

    And what is the LRP going to be? Just enough to keep the supply chain ticking. 5?

    Wait a few months and the next curtain opens up and we know where its at then. Many curtains to come.

  6. EASA will have all the documents and actions taken, they have MAX in Europe parked.

    Talking to FAA frequently is not an issue.

    No reason they can’t do their work over there.

    Its not like everyone is busy right now.

  7. Will Boeing restart 737 production? I would think the question is whether they will end all production for the indeterminate future, with massive layoffs coming in two weeks for Boeing and most of the airline industry. Short of Fauci giving some guidance that there is a summer and fall travel season and people will be buying tickets. All indications I see he is hinting at, is that a yearlong shutdown is necessary until a working vaccine is available.
    The only other outcome is that enough economic pain is evident that 10,000 lives saved is not worth the cost of 10 trillion dollars at a cost of 1 billion per life, and people have to get back to work and school at that cost before a year passes.

  8. Italy & Spain are approaching 1000 deads a day, despite a lock down.

    Look at your local airport, trainstation if you doubt it stops people travelling.

    • Europe is still well below recent years spikes in winter death rates when it reached 70,000 per week. They are currently only in the high 50k deaths per week.
      1000 extra deaths per week is not even statistically significant at this stage. Its tough for those people of course.
      Thats 24 countries so maybe slightly higher total population than US
      European Monitoring of Excess Mortality

  9. It may well be that local travel will recover will before long distance. Thus the 737, when sorted out, may very flying again. But for Boeing and Airbus wife body deliveries are going to stall. I have an Air NZ, Lufthansa rickety to Europe for September. Both airlines have e-mailed saying they redirect to get to 60-65% in 2 years! Most of that local. So, in those circumstances, who is taking delivery of airframes. If they are late then simply walk away. Otherwise defer.

  10. Just before COVID-19 pushed everything off the news, I saw something I find quite disturbing on the Seattle Times:

    “Udvar-Hazy, an experienced private pilot who is certified to fly 737s, said Boeing gave him the opportunity to test in a simulator both the original MCAS design and the updated version now being prepared for the jet’s return to service.

    He described the original design as “very aggressive.”

    “I did a whole bunch of takeoffs with different speeds, different settings and that thing is pretty violent, the old system,” he said. “It’s a wild horse.”

    “I have 11,000 hours in jets as a captain, and I could see where, if it comes as a stunning surprise – because I already knew it was going to do it – you could easily lose control of the airplane,” Udvar-Hazy said. “It was just a bad design.

    “Had there not been anything like that, all those people may still be alive,” he added.”


    What I find disturbing is that if Udvar-Hazy says of the original system “It’s a wild horse.” then the question is why didn’t anyone flag this as a major issue before the MAX was certified.

    I just can’t believe that if Boeing, and FAA pilots had flown the MAX with MCAS 1.0 in the simulator that serious questions weren’t raised.

    I can’t believe that the NG series behaves like a “wild horse” during a “whole bunch of takeoffs with different speeds, different settings” so it should have been obvious that you couldn’t share the type certificates between the NG, and the MAX ?

    I wonder what Udvar-Hazy thinks of the latest version of MCAS ? Perhaps Scott could ask him ?

    • Even before ET302 the sims were not true.
      I’m sure ET302 pilots tried their sim after JT610 and it seems they could deal with MCAS using the manual trim wheels, but in flight the trim wheels could not be used.

      I don’t believe anything Boeing says. Could be Boeing made the old version more agressive to show Udvar-Hazy how much better MCAS2.0 is.

      • First, the ET pilots did some ground work, there was not Simulator at Ethiopian that was MAX setup.

        The issue is that the way MCAS activated and stayed there as Boeing nor the FAA had tested in in failure modes.

        The NG and MAX issues were the stab manual control that were not programed in right. While related to the MAX crashes it was a separate aspect in that it had been distorted at the NG Sim level first (by the time the MAX sims came on line it had been discovered and was corrected – not that it should have been corrupted and its one of the still hidden aspects, how to you corrupt a program on a Simulator that is supposed to be 100%)

        Agreed on anything Boeing says.

        There is a huge difference between Boeing spin, BS and lies and deliberately changing a program, ie a conspiracy theory involved dozen of people.

        I am also sorting out how Hazy is a private pilot who is captain. If he was a captain he was a commercial pilot.

        • Also keep in mind, while not the prime cause, the pilots did not maintain control of the airspeed and that put them into the issue with the manual trim not working (or taking so much forces as to feel like it was not working)

          While Primary cause is MCAS, secondary is pilot related.

          • “The simulations also revealed that, for the trim setting, the pilots could not move the trim wheel manually at speeds above 220kt. Around 40 manual turns of the trim wheel would have been required from the Ethiopian crew to correct the aircraft’s 2.5-unit mis-trim.”

            Full context at https://www.flightglobal.com/safety/ethiopian-737-max-pilots-battled-intense-pitch-and-trim-forces/137152.article

            So 220 knots is well within the flight envelope, but if MCAS 1.0 moves the stabiliser to 2.5 units mistrim, you’re not going to find it easy to recover.

            So you must absolutely watch your speed, not easy when you can’t be sure what that speed is, and you are a bit distracted by various alarms, and trying to stop the nose of the aircraft from pointing at the ground!

        • “” the ET pilots did some ground work, there was not Simulator at Ethiopian that was MAX setup””

          Ethiopian had one of the few (4?) MAX simulators, the only one in Africa. And these MAX sims didn’t simulating real conditions.

          “”Agreed on anything Boeing says””

          Why should I not believe what Udvar-Hazy said?
          Why should I believe anything Boeing says? Blamed the pilots SMH

    • “I did a whole bunch of takeoffs with different speeds, different settings and that thing is pretty violent, the old system,” he said. “It’s a wild horse.”

      What do takeoffs have to do with testing MCAS?
      Something is definitely wrong with this tidbit of reporting.

      • It was at take off that the behavior manifested itself.

        Also where would you wind up with a non checked AOA or a damaged one? Yep, takeoff.

        Agreed the phrasing of Hazy experience is odd.

        • Then the article should make clear that AoA failure testing, or accident recreation testing was performed.

      • I find reference to pilot rated but not 11,000 hours as a commercial pilot.

        Clearly he would not have been able to do that and create and run the two lease businesses.

        That does not mean MCAS 1.0 is not a disaster.

      • Yes . There were 400 Maxs with the original software flying and no one reported this ‘wild horse’ behavior about a plane that was supposed to fly the same as the NG. The Airlines test captains would have noticed even before delivery when doing test flights.
        Without losing an AoA sensor the Mcas would only kick in a small part of the flight envelope, most pilots would never see it.
        Maybe they simulated loss of an AoA for Udvar-Hazy ?

      • Dominic Gates is generally reliable as a source!

        “I have 11,000 hours in jets as a captain” perhaps that’s because he flies his own private jets as captain, like to see his log book. I have seen references in various places to his 737 type rating. He seems to have got his licence at 17, seems to still have been flying at 26?

        So is there a gap in certification flight testing in sim, and flight where no error conditions are tested? So airframers say it’s the same as previous model, FAA EASA etc. just fly it as a normal passenger service, no faults, and pass it as OK?

        In software we have regression testing, does this just not happen in aircraft certification?

  11. How will e.g. European airlines get their MAX in case the travel ban is still in place? No airline will take a Boeing without looking in all the holes.

    • Flights in the air websites show plenty of planes travelling from US to Europe and vice versa

      • The cargo business is humming but travelers from EU are banned. Ryanair won’t except new aircraft without checking them with own personal.

        • Flight crew are often exempted from these sorts of restrictions, any way any deliveries are some months off.

  12. Scott,

    I once read that some contracts contain clauses that if planes are 1 year late (or cannot be delivered for 1 year due to a grounding by FAA) the contract can be dissolved and down payments have to be reimbursed.

    Do you know if this is true?

      • Well, then I wonder why at this point not all airlines that ordered MAXs cancel them, ask the money back and if ever they need again planes in the next 3 years, they just order the built but not picked up MAXs cheaper or NEOs that got cancelled due to bankruptcies of airlines.
        Needless to say that if fuel prices remain this low, 30 year old 320s and 737NGs or even wide bodies become competitive again.

        • Could airlines get more if the MAX can’t be certified after EASA did flight testing?
          I can’t imagine that the MAX will fly again with software changes only.

  13. It could be interesting to see what modifications is Required on delivered 737MAX, what additional modification of produced 737MAX in storage and the final additions required on new production 737MAX’s. Then comes additional requirements at first Heavy check.

    • The heavy check is not affected by the MAX issues.

      Wing join pins are across the group of NG and MAX and maybe classic.

      • You are welcome.

        Not what I would like to see but its factual and I think those should be shared.

        I wish I had been astute enough to save other links as those can be illuminating.

    • The news clip I read stated they canceled some Airbus planes, too.,…

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