Covid-19 and safety checks could hinder Boeing 737 MAX restart in May

Boeing plans to kick-start 737 MAX production in May after it was halted in the wake of a series of fatal crashes – provided it passes safety checks and coronavirus eases up

  • 737 MAX production plans hinge on supply chain disruption due to Covid-19
  • US regulators must clear 737 after 346 died in Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes
  • Boeing ceased production in January accruing backlog of 400 undelivered jets
  • Company seeks $60bn in US Gov aid to prop up the aerospace supply chain
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Boeing is planning to kick-start 737 MAX production by May, ending a month-long halt triggered by a safety ban on its best-selling jet after fatal crashes.

The American aerospace company’s plans currently hinge on the scale of disruption brought about by Covid-19 – and US regulators clearing the 737 MAX to return to service following fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia which saw 346 people dead.

But Boeing still expects to reach the mid-2020 milestone, according to sources familiar with the matter.

A fleet of American Airlines 737 MAX passenger planes parked in a uniform line on the Tarmac 

The airplane manufacturer reportedly asked some of its suppliers to be ready to ship 737 parts come April, according to one industry source. 

Another source said production was scheduled to restart in May. 

But a third source said the new and deadly coronavirus which has grounded vast swathes of air travel is throwing a wrench in Boeing’s plans.

‘It’ll be a very slow, methodical, systematic approach to warming the line up, and getting crews back in place,’ said Boeing chief financial officer Greg Smith to Reuters. 

‘Priority number one is getting customers’ fleets back up,’ Smith said, adding that a production ramp-up will be paired with clearing the MAX backlog. ‘We don’t want to add to inventory.’

The fuselage of a 737 MAX on the production line at the company’s manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington, US

Getting off the ground again – Boeing workers on a pair of 737 MAX airplanes in Renton, US

Boeing ceased production of the 737 MAX in January as it struggled to win regulatory approvals and accrued a backlog of 400 undelivered jets.

The coronavirus pandemic has shattered global travel demand, upended lives for millions, and wiped billions of dollars off Boeing’s market value, compounding a year-old crisis over the grounding of the 737 MAX after crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia which killed 346 people.

Boeing said on Monday that it would halt production in its Washington state facilities, beginning on Wednesday, to reduce coronavirus risks.

Boeing has reported dozens of cases across its Seattle-area facilities, many of which were at its Everett hub north of Seattle. 

Boeing must first pass US safety checks and overcome supply chain woes inflicted by Covid-19

One worker died from coronavirus, according to a friend’s Facebook tribute on Monday.

Boeing has told suppliers to halt shipments to its Seattle-area facilities, and has frozen hiring among other cash-saving measures.

Boeing is seeking $60billion in US government aid to prop up its finances and the embattled American aerospace supply chain.

Boeing has used the production lull to curb inefficiencies, improve quality and ease the plane’s re-entry to the market.

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