Before the 737 Max returns to the air, regulators are requiring Boeing to fix a new issue on the plane. Bundles of wires in the jet are apparently too close together for the regulators and must be separated.
The wire bundles were not implicated in the two crashes of the 737 Max. The two crashes, which killed a total of 346 people, were allegedly caused by failure of a software system called the MCAS.
Still, global regulators see a potential for catastrophic failure should the wires short-circuit. Privately, Boeing has told regulators that the likelihood of that happening is remove. However, regulators are not convinced and are insistent.
Boeing had been hoping to avoid the wiring separation project because it could further delay the return of the 737 Max to the air, which had been tentatively slated for this summer.
Boeing says that the separation of the wire bundles could take approximately a week per plane. There are about 800 737 Max jets in existence, half of which are still in Boeing’s possession. The other half are in the possession of customers, mostly airlines. It is possible that some customers will perform the wire bundle separation on their own.
Boeing is in the midst of a global economic disruption due to the epidemic, so it has frozen hiring and is limiting travel and discretionary spending. Only those working on the 737 Max and other critical projects will be given overtime.
Separately, Boeing announced that it has received 18 new 737 Max orders — but about twice as many cancelations, although some of those canceling converted their orders to other planes.
Boeing is expected to notify the Federal Aviation Administration officially about its plans for the repair as early as next week.
It is disheartening when a company like Boeing argues that it shouldn’t have to fix a potentially significant safety issue simply because the possibility of the even occurring seems remote. The failure of the MCAS may also have seemed remote, but it caused two crashes before the 737 Max was grounded.