US carriers begin repairs on Boeing 737 MAX planes - GulfToday

US carriers begin repairs on Boeing 737 MAX planes


Picture used for illustrative purpose.

United Airlines and two other major US carriers said on Friday they will quickly repair more than 60 Boeing 737 MAX planes grounded early last month over an electrical problem that could have interfered with critical systems.

Boeing Co sent all affected carriers service bulletins late on Wednesday on how to address the production issue, which had affected 109 planes worldwide. The Federal Aviation Administration had signed off on the service bulletins, Reuters first reported late on Wednesday.

The action was a relief for American carriers, which had anxiously awaited the green light to get the planes back into the air before the traditional late May start to the summer travel season. US demand for air travel has risen as the COVID-19 pandemic has waned in the United States.

The halting of flights by about a fourth of the MAX fleet came after the plane was grounded for 20 months following two fatal crashes. The FAA lifted that grounding order in November after Boeing made a number of software and training upgrades.

The electrical problem being repaired did not cause any in-service failures, the FAA noted.

United Airlines
Picture used for illustrative purpose.

United spokeswoman Leslie Scott said  the airline expects its “Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to return to service in the coming days as we complete our inspection process and ensure those aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards.”

American Airlines said it would begin making required changes and anticipates “all affected aircraft will begin safely returning to service in the upcoming days.”

Southwest Airlines, which has 32 affected planes, said it estimates the work will take two to three days per aircraft. The airline said it hoped to begin work within the next several days, and estimates it will take about three weeks to complete the work.

Shares in the airlines and Boeing were up 1.8% to 2.9% in late morning trading.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday the electrical issue, which had grounded about a quarter of the MAX fleet, would need a “pretty straightforward fix.”

Airlines removed dozens of 737 MAX jets from service in early April after Boeing warned of the electrical problem, linked to a backup power control unit in the cockpit on planes built since early 2019.

The problem was then found in two other places on the flight deck: the storage rack where the control unit is kept and the instrument panel facing the pilots.

The FAA said in statement last month that other carriers affected by the electrical issue were Cayman Airways, Copa Airlines, GOL Linhas Aereas, Iceland Air, Minsheng Leasing, Neos Air, Shanding Airlines, SilkAir, Spice Jet, Sunwing Airlines, TUI, Turkish Airlines, Valla Jets Limited, WestJet Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.

 Federal regulators have approved a Boeing procedure to fix about 100 jets that have been idled for the past month because of improper electrical grounding of some components, and some of the planes could be flying again in the next few days.

Picture used for illustrative purpose.

A Boeing spokesman said Thursday that the company issued service bulletins to airlines and will help them perform the work to fix the planes.

The approval by the Federal Aviation Administration came shortly after the agency’s administrator, Stephen Dickson, told a congressional panel he had “absolute confidence” in the safety of the Max and that fixing the latest problem with the troubled jetliner would be “pretty straightforward.”

Southwest Airlines, the biggest customer for Boeing 737 jets including the Max, estimates that the work will take two to three days per plane. The airline expects to complete the work on its 32 grounded planes in about three weeks, a spokesman said.

American Airlines, which has 18 planes sidelined by the electrical issue, and United Airlines, with 17 grounded Max jets, said they expect those planes to resume flying in the coming days but were not more specific. Alaska Airlines has four grounded Max jets.

The timing of FAA approval is a boost to both Boeing - which is preparing to resume cash-generating deliveries of recently built Max jets - and its airline customers. Airlines can now plan on having the planes to help meet rising demand and expanding flight schedules heading into the peak summer-travel season.

The electrical issue affecting a backup power unit and other components was another setback for Boeing’s best-selling plane.

It came just a few months after the planes resumed flying following two deadly crashes and a 20-month worldwide grounding of all Max jets. The electrical issue appeared to be unrelated to the automated flight-control system that played a role in the crashes.


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