Regulators Push Back As Boeing Desperately Tries To Avoid Making 737 MAX Safer

By law, any plane that’s certified starting in 2023 requires new cockpit alerts. That’s part of the U.S. government reaction to problems with the Boeing 737 MAX.

Boeing doesn’t want to implement these new safety requirements for the 737 MAX 10, and as a result has been rushing to either get the largest variant of the MAX certified before the end of 2022, or get legislators to pass an exemption. It’s certainly unseemly for Boeing to be desperately trying to duck safety requirements on the MAX, of all planes.

Doing its best Cleavon Little from Blazing Saddles, the aircraft manufacturer has even threatened to kill the MAX 10 program if it isn’t certified without the new cockpit alert requirements. That would mean giving up on about 700 orders for the largest 737 MAX variant, although some of those might get converted to smaller planes. It could also mean losing orders to Airbus.

  • Boeing has tried to pressure the FAA to expedite approval, not just with threats of project cancellation but also through lobbying legislators

  • Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) has proposed giving Boeing two more years to get certified without the extra safety requirements. He’s seeking to attach the exemption to a defense bill, essentially sneaking it in.

  • In a letter to the Senator, the FAA says the smaller MAX 7 might not get certification before end of year – and that’s needed before moving onto the MAX 10. The FAA works slowly, saying that since Boeing didn’t get all its paperwork in by mid-September the agency might not complete its reviews by end of year. That doesn’t speak well of the FAA.

  • Boeing says there’s ‘still a chance’ that the MAX 10 could be approved this year, but the FAA basically says that is impossible. Boeing is looking at summer 2023 at this point.

United is a big customer for the as-yet unreleased aircraft and so is Alaska Airlines. United is expected to fly these planes on premium cross country routes. Boeing even scored a big order from Delta, a huge win from an airline that hasn’t bought new planes from Boeing in years. The Delta order came days after Boeing issued the threat to kill the project.

I called Boeing’s threats to kill the MAX 10 program ‘playing chicken’ with the FAA. Clearly Boeing will blink first. After MAX crashes they also shouldn’t be spending all of their capital trying to avoid safety requirements.

Boeing says that having common safety requirements for all variants of the MAX is better, but note that they do not advocate for more cockpit alerts in the MAX 8 and MAX 9 variants, they’re seeking fewer requirements for all types of the plane which famously experienced crashes with both Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines.

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