Seattle, Washington - Boeing is said plans to separate 737 MAX wiring bundles before the aircraft returns to service. The issue was previously flagged by regulators as potentially dangerous.
The decision to change clusters of wiring that control key aircraft systems marks a reversal from the U.S. planemaker’s initial recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration and poses a fresh hurdle to the jet’s already-delayed return to service.The FAA and Boeing first said in early January they were reviewing a wiring issue that could potentially cause a short circuit on the 737 MAX, and in certain remote circumstances lead to a crash if pilots did not react in time.
Earlier on Wednesday, FAA chief Steve Dickson confirmed that the agency had rejected Boeing’s initial proposal to leave wiring bundles in place and said the decision on next steps was up to the planemaker. Pending final approvals from the FAA, Boeing will move to physically separate the wiring bundles before the MAX is cleared for service, two people familiar with the matter said.
Boeing does not view the retrofits as delaying the plane’s estimated return to service in the middle of the year at the earliest, one of the people added. Boeing expects changes to take roughly one week per aircraft, but it will do some of the work as it goes through the process of removing aircraft from storage, he said.
Representatives for Boeing and FAA declined to comment on whether the planemaker intends to separate the wiring bundles. Boeing has noted in talks with the FAA that the same wiring bundles are in the 737 NG, which has been in service since 1997 and logged 205 million flight hours without any wiring issues.
Boeing 737 MAX cancellations pile up
Boeing’s 737 MAX was grounded worldwide a year ago after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people within five months. The worldwide safety ban wiped billions off the company’s value and sparked hundreds of lawsuits from bereaved families. Boeing has spent months updating the stall-prevention software known as MCAS linked to both crashes, but fresh issues have surfaced during intense scrutiny on the aircraft, pushing back regulators’ re-approval of the plane by months.
Wiring was one such issue.
There are more than a dozen different locations on the 737 MAX where wiring bundles may be too close together. Most of the locations are under the cockpit in an electrical bay. Boeing was already weeks into developing a backup plan in case the FAA rejected its arguments, the people said.
Boeing reported Wednesday that it logged more commercial aircraft cancellations than new orders in February, marking a bleak start to the year for the manufacturer already reeling from two fatal crashes of its bestselling plane.
Boeing said Air Canada canceled 11 MAX jets while some other customers converted orders for larger planes. For example, aircraft leasing firm Air Lease converted nine 737 MAXs into three 787s. Oman Air converted 10 MAXs into four 787s.
The cancellations tipped Boeing’s monthly orders into negative territory, the company said. The Chicago-based manufacturer logged 18 gross orders last month — its first orders of the year — but it also posted 46 cancellations, bringing its total net sales activity for the year to 28 cancellations. A year ago, governments around the world grounded the Boeing 737 MAX after two fatal crashes of nearly new planes within five months of one another. Together, the two crashes killed all 346 people aboard the flights and set off a crisis within Boeing.
Orders were halted after the second crash in March 2019, and Boeing suspended production of the MAX jetliners in January. The company is sticking with its estimate that it expects regulators to lift a ban on the planes midyear. Boeing is now facing a fresh challenge with the spread of the coronavirus, which is roiling the airline industry. Bookings are cratering and airline chiefs this week warned it could worsen before it improves, as travelers opt to stay home and large companies call off business trips.
The company is now drawing down a more than $13 billion loan it secured in January earlier than expected to shore up funds amid coronavirus-led market volatility, according to a person familiar with the matter.
(quoted from AirLiner Watch)