SEATTLE — In the wake of a door panel incident on a different version of the 737 Max plane, Boeing announced on Monday that it would be retracting its request for a safety exemption needed to certify a new model of the aircraft.
Late last year, the company had sought permission from federal regulators to commence deliveries of its 737 Max 7 airliner, even though it did not meet a specific safety standard intended to prevent overheating and detachment of part of the engine housing during flight.
However, following the occurrence of a door plug failure on a Max 9 plane, which resulted in a significant hole in the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines flight, the company’s commitment to safety and quality control has faced severe scrutiny.
Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Tammy Duckworth recently called upon the Federal Aviation Administration to reject Boeing’s request, prompting the decision to withdraw it.
Boeing expressed its dedication to transparency and commitment to enhancing safety and quality in a written statement.
The safety standard in question pertains to an anti-icing system, which also impacts other models of the 737 Max currently in operation.
While Boeing has been actively working to address this issue on existing Max planes, federal officials have advised pilots to exercise caution in using the de-icing system under dry conditions. This precaution is necessary as excessive heat around the engine inlets could cause parts of the housing to break away and potentially damage the aircraft, leading to rapid decompression.
Notably, only the Max models are affected by this problem due to the carbon composite materials used for their engine inlets, as opposed to metal.
Boeing had originally hoped for its new Max 7 model to be delivered to customers with pilots abiding by the guidelines established for Max 8 and Max 9 pilots. The company had requested an exemption until May 2026 while actively working on a permanent solution.
Boeing to Implement Engineering Solution for the 737 Max
Boeing has announced that it will forgo its exemption request and instead incorporate an engineering solution during the certification process for the 737 Max. This decision follows the grounding of all Max 9s in the U.S. after an incident.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the inspection and maintenance process to allow the planes to return to service, and two U.S. airlines, Alaska and United, have already begun reintroducing their Max 9s.
On the other hand, Southwest Airlines, the main customer for the Max 7, has removed this model from its fleet plans until it receives FAA certification.
Although there haven’t been any reports of overheating incidents on Max flights, the severity of the risk prompted the FAA to issue a warning to pilots based on findings from a test flight.
Since its initial launch in 2017, the 737 Max has faced numerous challenges, including two fatal crashes that claimed the lives of 346 people. This led to a global grounding of all Max jets while Boeing addressed issues with an automated flight-control system.
In addition to these setbacks, manufacturing flaws have also impacted Max deliveries. Boeing recently instructed airlines to inspect the planes for potential issues with loose bolts in the rudder-control system.
Boeing’s president and CEO, Stan Deal, acknowledged the company’s responsibility and expressed a commitment to helping airlines restore their operations. He apologized for the significant disruption caused to their customers, acknowledging that they have been unfairly criticized in public.
Moving forward, Boeing aims to swiftly develop a compliant design for all Max planes, with hopes of regaining public trust and ensuring safe operations.