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279 Days Since Grounding, Boeing Halts 737 MAX Production


Image via Andres Dallimonti on Unsplash

Boeing's 737 series was first introduced on February 10, 1968, becoming the world's leading commercial jetliner over the ensuing decades. Through November of this year, the 737 series has logged 10,565 deliveries on 15,156 orders. 4,545 of the 4,591 unfilled orders, or 99% of them, are the 737 MAX.


When the 737 MAX was first announced on August 30, 2011, Boeing said "The 737 MAX offers airlines the right solution and the best choice for creating the most successful future with improved profitability. We call it the 737 MAX because it optimizes everything we and our customers have learned about designing, building, maintaining and operating the world's best single-aisle airplane"


All it took was a period of five months from late October of last year to March of this year to unravel decades of success for Boeing. On October 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610—a Boeing 737 MAX 8, crashed in Indonesia 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board. Less than five months later, on March 10, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302—also a Boeing 737 MAX 8, crashed six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board.


Following the second crash, aviation authorities around the world immediately began grounding the 737 MAX. Over three consecutive days beginning on March 11, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and finally, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, grounded the 737 MAX. By March 18 the 737 MAX was grounded worldwide.


279 days after the FAA grounded the airplane, Boeing has finally announced it will indefinitely halt 737 MAX production in January. Saying "the FAA and global regulatory authorities determine the timeline for certification and return to service," Boeing has determined it will "prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program beginning next month."


Boeing's decision is "least disruptive to maintaining long-term production system and supply chain health." The factors Boeing cited in its decision to halt production include the extension of certification into 2020, uncertainty about the timing and conditions of return to service, global training approvals and prioritizing the delivery of stored aircraft.


Boeing said the 12,000 employees who are working at the Renton, Washington Factory will retain their jobs by doing other 737-related work or be deployed to other facilities in the region. "During this time, it is our plan that affected employees will continue 737-related work, or be temporarily assigned to other teams in Puget Sound," said Boeing.


This is just the latest bad news to plague Boeing. While shares of Boeing are down 27% from their all-time high reached just before the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the stock is only down 3% since the Lion Air crash. Thanks to retiring a net 200 million shares through buybacks since 2013, shares of Boeing are still up more than 300% since the end of 2012. As Market Crumbs wrote in October, will Boeing become a case study on sacrificing quality for financial gain?


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