Boeing has restarted production of its troubled 737 Max aircraft following a four-month interval.
The passenger jet was grounded globally in 2019 following two crashes five months apart that killed a total of 346 people.
Boeing said on Wednesday, May 27 that it is now ready to start building the Max again, albeit at “a low rate.”
It added that for the restart it has implemented “more than a dozen initiatives focused on enhancing workplace safety and product quality.”
Production of the 737 Max at Boeing’s Renton, Washington facility was halted in January 2020 while the aerospace giant waited for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to complete a review of the Max’s design changes.
“Safely returning the 737 Max to service is our top priority,” Boeing said at the time. “We know that the process of approving the 737 Max’s return to service, and of determining appropriate training requirements, must be extraordinarily thorough and robust, to ensure that our regulators, customers, and the flying public have confidence in the 737 Max updates.”
Boeing says it has fixed the fault with the flight control system that caused the crashes, but a number of other issues with the Max have since surfaced.
The manufacturer’s decision to resume production appears to be a signal to the airline industry that it continues to strongly back the aircraft. Part of the reason it suspended production at the start of the year was because it was running out of storage space for the 400 Max planes it had already built, but which can’t be flown to customers. With that in mind, its decision to build new Max jets at a slower pace than usual makes sense.
But Boeing faces other challenges besides trying to restore the Max’s reputation. The drastic reduction in commercial passenger flights due to the coronavirus pandemic is causing serious difficulties for Boeing and other plane makers as carriers around the world cancel aircraft orders. More than 100 orders of the Max alone have been canceled to date. The dire situation has forced the aerospace giant to cut its workforce by 10%, equal to around 16,000 jobs.
It’s currently unclear when the Max will take to the skies again. Last year Boeing said it was eyeing mid-2020, but with the pandemic causing severe disruption, and the FAA yet to give the jet the green light, the idea of the Max flying again in the next month or two appears somewhat remote.
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