Last week, Boeing announced that Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines inked deals for dozens of new 737 MAX jets. Though airlines appear to be regaining confidence in the once-grounded 737 MAX, a new set of issues may complicate the aircraft’s complete return to the skies.
Boeing announced in a Friday morning issuance that at least 16 airlines have been advised to pull their 737 MAX fleets from service and inspect them for possible electrical issues.
Boeing did not specify how many aircraft will be affected, nor how long the inspections are expected to take.
The FAA later confirmed it would “ensure the issue is addressed.”
Since the announcement, Texas-based Southwest Airlines, which only flies Boeing 737s, has moved to remove at least 30 of the jets from service. The company highlighted that it has not experienced any related “operational challenges” and foresees “minimal disruption” to operations following the grounding.
The fatal crashes that together killed 346 people have ultimately been linked to the 737 MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which serves as a flight control system designed to enhance the jet’s pitch stability so that it feels and flies like other 737s. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has argued “lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA” were also factors.
“My understanding is this is different than any of those other issues and obviously we need to make sure there’s full confidence before these specific aircraft return to the air and that’s what the FAA will be closely monitoring,” US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg remarked on Friday.
However, the FAA has not ordered the grounding of all 737 MAX jets.
“This grounding calls into question the safety of the Max and why Boeing’s claims of a ‘changed culture’ continue to ring hollow,” he added.