© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft lands after a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, the United States, June 29, 2020. REUTERS / Karen Ducey
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Boeing Co on Wednesday received U.S. regulatory approval to fix an electrical grounding issue that affected approximately 100 737 MAX aircraft and paved the way for their quick reconnection after flights commence April said.
An FAA official confirmed that the agency approved the service bulletins and instructions. Boeing (NYSE 🙂 sent two bulletins to the airlines on Wednesday.
"After we received final approvals from the FAA, we issued service bulletins for the affected fleet," Boeing told Reuters. "We are also completing the work as we prepare to resume deliveries."
The announcement comes as a relief to U.S. carriers who have been eagerly waiting to get the planes back into service before the traditional start of the summer travel season kicks off in late May as demand for air travel rises.
The three largest US 737 MAX operators – Southwest Airlines (NYSE :), American Airlines (NASDAQ 🙂 and United Airlines – have taken more than 60 jets out of service, according to Boeing's announcement. The carriers did not respond immediately.
Earlier Wednesday, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson had told US lawmakers that the electrical problem that had grounded about a quarter of the MAX fleet would require "a fairly simple fix".
Dickson also said he was fully confident in the safety of the MAX, which was put back into service for 20 months in November 2020 after two fatal accidents in five months that killed 346 people.
Reuters reported May 4 that the FAA had asked Boeing to provide new analysis showing that numerous 737 MAX subsystems are unaffected by electrical grounding issues, first reported in April in three areas of the jet were.
The electrical problem came after Boeing changed a manufacturing method to speed up production of the jetliner, a third person said. A fourth person said the change improved a hole drilling process.
Dave Calhoun, Boeing CEO, told CNBC in April that there was "a three- to four-day timeframe for recovery after the bulletins were released."
Airlines took dozens of 737 MAX jets out of service in early April after Boeing warned of the electrical problem associated with an emergency power control in the cockpit of some recently built aircraft.
The problem, which also stopped the delivery of new aircraft, was then found in two other places on the flight deck, including the storage shelf that holds the control unit and the instrument panel that faces the pilots.
The FAA said other airlines affected are Cayman Airways, Copa Airlines, GOL Linhas Aereas, Island Air, Minsheng Leasing, Neos Air, Shanding Airlines, SilkAir, Spice Jet, Sunwing Airlines, TUI, Turkish Airlines, Valla Jets Limited, WestJet Airlines and Xiamen airlines.
The regulator has daily meetings with Boeing to discuss the MAX's performance, Dickson said. In February, the FAA announced that it was tracking all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft using satellite data under an agreement with air traffic control firm Aireon LLC.