As the Boeing 737 MAX enters its 6th month of worldwide grounding, the question remains; when will the plane take to the skies again? While Boeing still promises to have a software fix for the plane and win approval from the FAA to fly again sometime in October, United Airlines has once again delayed the earliest possible return of its grounded Boeing737 Max jets till mid-December.
United extends 737 MAX flight cancellations until Dec. 19
Boeing’s best-selling plane, 737 Max was grounded in March after an automatic safety feature was tied to fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia killing 346 people. Since then, United Airlines has grounded its 14 Max jets and had expected to fly them by November 2019. But last Friday, the airline announced that it has removed the Max from its schedule until Dec. 19, six weeks longer than previously planned. It is sixth adjustment since aviation regulators grounded the Boeing Co. jet in March. The schedule change is likely to affect about 9,500 planned flights through December, with the largest impacts expected in October and November. However, canceling more than 90 daily flights this far in advance will make United to easily accommodate affected passengers on different flights.
All 14 of United’s 737 MAX 9 are inactive and out of service in the desert called ‘Airline Graveyard’. This means that fewer planes have been taking up spaces in maintenance hangars or airport aprons. However, United is not the only one to store the 737 aircrafts in the desert, other U.S. airlines that operate the MAX such as Southwest and American Airlines too have preserved their Boeing 737 Max fleet in the deserted area.
When will Boeing 737 MAX fly again? Not this year
While the MAX jets of all three airlines accounted for only a fraction of Boeing’s entire fleet at the time of the grounding, the delivery of dozens of new orders remains frozen till Boeing receives approval from FAA to fly again. The global manufacturer hopes to receive regulatory approval for its updated flight control software by November. Still, it could take a month or two for airlines to train pilots on the new software and prepare the jets for commercial flight after sitting idle for months.