Will MAX fly again?

EIGHT months since Ethiopian Airlines’ flight ET302 crashed on March 10, airlines around the world are moving their Boeing 737 Max 8 into long-term storage, uncertain of when the aircraft’s indefinite grounding will be lifted. However Boeing remains hopeful the aircraft will return to the skies again before the end of the year.

In March, Boeing advised it was working on a software update for the aircraft that it expected would be ready as early as April but this date has been continually pushed back.

A spokesperson from Boeing told TNW that it continued to target regulatory approval for the 737 Max’s return to service. She added that it would ultimately be the FAA and other global regulators that would determine the timeline, however.

BA Comair’s first 737 Max aircraft was still being held in storage by Comair, where it was being maintained daily by Lufthansa Technik, said a spokesperson for the airline. Comair had ordered eight 737 Max aircraft, prior to the aircraft’s grounding.

“We are in constant contact with the manufacturer and regulators on when the aircraft might return to service and will consider bringing it back into service only once we have approval from all the relevant regulatory authorities.”

He explained that both the maintenance capacity constraints and the 737 Max certification problems had necessitated Comair taking short-term ad hoc aircraft leases but added that compensation negotiations with Boeing would only commence once the equipment type had been returned to service. “We therefore have no idea of the timing or quantum of any compensation claim,” said the spokesperson.

He added that it was currently expected that once the 737 Max came back into service Comair would take delivery of a further two 737 Max aircraft with the order of the remaining five having being deferred by Comair. No pre-delivery payments have been refunded but the ongoing pre-delivery payments have been suspended until such time as the equipment is re-certified, said the spokesperson.

“At financial year end, Comair had a remaining commitment to Boeing of R5,2 billion, payable from 2020 to 2024 for Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.”