Boeing has halted production on the 737 Max, but promises that this will not involve layoffs or closures. The 737 Max has had an extremely troubled history, starting with two highly publicized plane crashes, and continuing with more issues being steadily uncovered. The quality control issues and potential culture issues of the company may still need to be addressed, and there are quite a few people who lost money on their investment.
Early in 2019, the outlook for Boeing was extraordinarily optimistic. Boeing had taken up a few major contracts for the 737 Max, and these contracts had bolstered the company’s stock price. All of it went away in March of 2019, when the 737 Max was grounded following two crashes of the new airplanes. Boeing continued to work with airline authorities to try to get the 737 Max ungrounded, but has been unsuccessful, as new issues have been discovered.
The Issues With the Max, Put Simply
The airlines industry is one that’s supposed to have substantial oversight, so the fact that the 737 Max had some glaring issues is surprising to many. But the issues that the 737 Max had were complex, and they weren’t ones that could be discovered on routine checks. Instead, they would have had to have been controlled for by Boeing themselves. Experts indicate that the problems with the Boeing 737 Max should have been revealed during internal testing, and were ultimately avoidable.
Many rumors flew during the initial days of the investigation, but the real issues were very simple. The 737 Max had problems with its sensors, which would sometimes indicate that the plane was flying incorrectly. The plane would then try to automatically correct, which would send it into a devastating nose dive. A post-mortem of the planes showed that the sensors would sometimes report that the plane was veering wildly, even though it wasn’t.
Boeing’s defense was that this type of correction did have some processes and procedures for pilots. Pilots were to correct for automatic steering, under the current guidelines. But since pilots themselves were not aware of this flaw nor the automatic course correction, they weren’t able to respond appropriately to release it.
This issue caused two planes to suddenly nosedive, killing those on board. Following that, the plane was under intense scrutiny, which ultimately led to it being grounded and under investigation.
Boeing’s New CEO Still Wants to Fly Again
Boeing’s new CEO, despite the halted production, says that the 737 Max is safe and is going to fly again. Presently, Boeing is technically allowed to produce but not sell the 737 Max. Early in the week, Boeing halted production due to the fact that they could not engage in additional contracts for the plane, even if they were producing it.
Interestingly enough, the new CEO says that they aren’t going to wait for the FAA to clear them before they start production again. Instead, they’ll start production confidently and wait for the FAA to clear them for sales.
The Consequences for the Airline Industry
The grounding didn’t just impact Boeing, but also many of the airlines that were supported by the 737 Max. This includes airlines such as Southwest, which lost $828 million due to the groundings. And, understandably, this has also made many companies hesitant to invest in the 737 Max. But in the case of the 737 Max, there’s no real alternative to it either.
Boeing is such a large company with such a foothold on commercial airline development, that there wasn’t a good substitute for the 737 Max. If there was one, it would be up to Boeing themselves to produce it. The closest is the Airbus line, and Airbus is presently wrapped up in other contracts. Thus, even though the 737 Max may have some skepticism attached to it, it’s also indispensable long term.
The 737 Max was one of the most important planes for Boeing, and it’s no wonder that they continue to cling to it. However, the current halt of production does indicate that they aren’t going to be selling those planes anytime soon. The new CEO’s optimistic plans are to resume production in the middle of the year, but whether the Boeing will pass safety checks and be able to be sold is another question.