Boeing has provided new insight into when the 737 Max 7 might achieve certification, with executives saying they need another nine to 12 months to finish development of a fix to the type’s engine anti-ice system.
That timeline seemingly pushes the long-delayed Max 7’s regulatory clearance to at least the end of 2024, though executives decline to provide a specific timeline, saying the process lies in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Boeing had hoped to have the 737 Max 7 certificated in 2023, though the certification pathway became muddled after Boeing last year asked the FAA to exempt the type until May 2026 from some airworthiness rules due to a problem involving engine anti-ice overheating. The exemption would have allowed the FAA to certificate the type while Boeing worked on a permanent fix.
But on 29 January, Boeing reversed course, saying it had withdrawn its request and would fix the design before seeking certification. The company had faced intense pressure to do so, including from Senator Tammy Duckworth, chair of the Senate aviation subcommittee.
Speaking during Boeing’s 2023 earnings call on 31 January, chief executive David Calhoun said he recently visited Duckworth in Washington, DC. He told her Boeing expected to complete an “engineered solution” for the problem within about nine months.
Duckworth suggested to Calhoun that Boeing finish the redesign before, not after certification. Calhoun says he was persuaded.
“She had a way different argument for me, but it was right,” Calhoun says. “It was a sound, principled decision to take… This is the right thing to do.”
During the same earnings call, Boeing chief financial officer Brian West says the redesign could come “within a year”. He was not more specific.
Executives also decline to speculate when the FAA might certificate the largest member of the Max family, the Max 10. Boeing began the Max 10’s certification flight-test programme in the fourth quarter of last year.
“It will be certified at some point, when the FAA decides,” says West.
The engine anti-ice problem affects all Max variants and involves potential overheating of engine nacelle inlet structures. In 2023, the FAA issued an airworthiness directive addressing the risk in Boeing’s two in-service Max models – the Max 8 and Max 9. That order prohibits some operations and specifies when pilots are to use the anti-ice system.