Boeing set to resume 737 Max deliveries, airlines start repairs after FAA approves electrical issue fix

Key Points
  • American and United are starting to repair 737 Max planes that were grounded last month for electrical issues.
  • Airlines have been eager to get the newly delivered jets back in service before the busy late-spring and summer travel season.
  • The FAA said it approved a fix for the planes' manufacturing flaw, which grounded more than 100 of them last month.

In this article

United Airlines planes, including a Boeing 737 MAX 9 model, are pictured at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, March 18, 2019.
Loren Elliott | Reuters

Boeing said Thursday that it expects to resume deliveries of 737 Max planes "within the week" after federal officials approved a fix for an electrical problem while U.S. airlines are starting repairs on dozens of grounded jets.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the repairs for the manufacturing flaw, which grounded more than 100 planes in service last month.

Boeing had paused deliveries of Max aircraft it already produced to address the issue, the company's latest hinderance to generating much-needed cash.

Boeing shares closed up 0.8% after briefly trading more than 3% higher at session highs.

The Max planes had been grounded worldwide for 20 months until last November after two fatal crashes. The electrical problem is unrelated to issues that prompted the grounding between March 2019 and November 2020 after the crashes.

Airlines have been eager to get the planes back in service to cater to a rebound in travel demand as more customers are vaccinated against Covid-19 and attractions reopen.

United Airlines has begun repairs on the planes and said it expects its 17 affected Max jets to return to service in "the coming days as we complete our inspection process and ensure those aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards." The Chicago-based airline has a total of 30 Maxes in its fleet.

American Airlines has also started repairs and expects its 18 Max aircraft that must undergo the repairs to be back in service in the next few days. Southwest Airlines said that work on each plane will take two to three days and that "it will take about three weeks to complete the compliance work."

Dallas-based Southwest has 32 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes that were grounded last month out of a total Max fleet of 64.

The FAA said on April 29 that it is investigating how the electrical problem occurred. Officials said the manufacturing flaw, which arose after a design change in 2019, led to insufficient electrical grounding in some cockpit areas, which could ultimately affect systems such as engine ice protection, if not addressed.

The agency also said it is auditing Boeing's process for minor design changes.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly on Boeing 737 Max groundings
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly on Boeing 737 Max groundings