With a federal safety review ongoing, Boeing has decided to suspend production of the troubled 737 MAX passenger jet, having made over 400 that it can’t deliver until the ban is lifted – if ever. Workers will remain safe, for now.
Production at the Renton, Washington facility near Seattle will be suspended in January, Boeing said in a statement on Monday. It is unclear how long the pause will last.
“This decision is driven by a number of factors, including the extension of certification into 2020, the uncertainty about the timing and conditions of return to service and global training approvals, and the importance of ensuring that we can prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft,” Boeing said.
We have decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program beginning next month.
The 12,000 workers affected will not be fired or furloughed, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the suspension.
The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of all 737 MAX models in March, grudgingly following the lead of countries around the world after the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 killed 157 people. Five months earlier, a 737 MAX of Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed in the same manner, killing 189 passengers and crew.
Since then, almost 400 MAX jets have been stuck on the ground, and Boeing has manufactured 400 more, which it cannot deliver to customers anywhere. The FAA review is still ongoing, amid a number of revelations suggesting that flaws with the MAX’s control software were long known to the company and its test pilots.
The FAA administrator Steve Dickson met with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg last week and told him to stop issuing public statements about the MAX’s imminent return to service, according to the Seattle Times.
An email from the FAA to Congress about the meeting said that the company’s schedule was “not realistic” and that Dickson wanted to “directly address the perception that some of Boeing’s public statements have been designed to force FAA into taking quicker action.” Cutting against Muilenburg’s more optimistic projections, Dickson insisted last week the MAX would not fly again until sometime in 2020 and called it “premature” to discuss any certification changes.
Among Boeing’s most important aircraft, the suspension of the 737 MAX will have repercussions beyond the company itself, representing a major hit to its suppliers. While Boeing said it would continue to accept parts in an attempt to offset the worst disruptions, the move has already taken a toll on Spirit AeroSystems, which produces the MAX’s fuselage, tanking its shares by 2 percent on Monday, according to the New York Times. Boeing shares, meanwhile, took a 4 percent hit.