How did it all start?
On Thursday, April 8, Boeing identified a potential electrical problem involving some of the newly returned 737 MAX airplanes. Nearly all the affected jets were built before Boeing resumed deliveries of the 737 MAX in December 2020.
The identification of the electrical problem came only a week after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted type certification for the 737 MAX 8-200. The 737 MAX-800 is a variant developed for Ryanair. The identification of the electrical problem also came after Alaska Airlines finalized an order for 23 new Boeing 737 jets. Southwest Airlines also reached a new purchase agreement with Boeing for 100 737 MAX airplanes in March. Boeing informed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the manufacturing problem could affect the operation of a backup power control unit situated in the cockpit.
In a statement on April 9, Boeing stated that it has recommended that some airlines operating the 737 MAX temporarily pause operations to address the issue.
The reason for pausing operations, Boeing clarified, is to “allow for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system.” The newly discovered electrical malfunction is not related to the faulty Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). Faulty MCAS lead to two 737 MAX tragic crashes within 5 months. After the crashes, regulators grounded the aircraft internationally for nearly 20 months.
On Friday, April 16, industry sources revealed that engineers discovered similar grounding flaws elsewhere in the cockpit.
Engineers found grounding problems in other places on the flight deck. They detected grounding problems in the storage rack keeping the affected power unit, and instrument panel facing the pilots. The electrical problem dates back to an alteration in material coating once production of the 737 MAX resumed.
Boeing must draw up repair bulletins guiding airlines on how to fix the problems with grounding. US regulators must approve of the repair bulletins, first. A relatively straightforward fix, analysts expect. When the partial suspension was first announced, Boeing told airlines that fixing each jet might anywhere between a few hours to a few days. However, no details were available immediately on the timing repair bulletins needed to start working on the flawed jets.
Another reputation blow for the notorious 737 MAX. Another reputation blow for Boeing. Will the 737 MAX remain afloat in troubled waters, again? Time will tell…
Until next week…