Boeing 737 MAX Likely to Remain Grounded Through to 2021

Boeing’s currently grounded 737 MAX isn’t likely to be put back into widespread use until at least early next year amid additional FAA delays in re-certifying the jets.

Boeing’s  (BA) - Get Report currently grounded 737 MAX isn’t likely to be put back into widespread use among airline carriers until at least early next year amid additional delays in re-certifying the jets for commercial use.

The Wall Street Journal reported the 737 MAX, which has been grounded since March 2019 following two separate crashes that killed 346 passengers, isn’t likely to get the nod from Federal Aviation Administration officials until late October or early November at the earliest, and likely closer to the end of December or early January.

Citing U.S. government and industry officials, the Journal said the agency has decided to ask for public comments before finalizing software and hardware changes. Regulators overseas could take days or weeks longer to concur in those decisions, further pushing back the re-certification process, the Journal said.

In addition, completing pilot training and maintenance checks - and obtaining final FAA approval for those tasks for individual airlines - is expected to stretch well into December, the officials told the Journal. Only then will the MAX be ready to return to commercial service.

Boeing has been working with the FAA for more than a year and a half to address software and hardware fixes that inspectors have indicated were behind two crashes involving 737 MAX jets, where pilots were unable to take manual control of the airplane following a software malfunction.  

Efforts to re-certify the planes have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, however, with FAA officials working from home and the agency facing other challenges related to scheduling U.S. and foreign pilots to participate in ground-simulator testing, the Journal said.

Meantime, both Boeing and airlines around the world are sitting on 400 737 MAX jets that have already been delivered and can't be put in the air, and another 400 or so that have been built but not yet delivered.

Boeing last week said it delivered a total of 20 commercial jets during the quarter, down 78% from 90 a year ago, thanks largely to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the 20 deliveries were four 737 MAX planes.

Shares of Boeing were down 1.06% at $176.73 in trading on Wednesday.