The beleaguered Boeing 737 MAX has run into another issue, with the plane-maker recommending that some of tis jets be grounded after identifying more safety problems. A “potential electrical issue” has been blamed for the sudden announcement, which could force some airlines to cancel flights after aircraft are benched.
“The recommendation is being made to allow for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system,” Boeing said today. “We are working closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on this production issue. We are also informing our customers of specific tail numbers affected and we will provide direction on appropriate corrective actions.”
Less than 100 jets are currently believed to be affected by the recommendation. In the US, impacted 737 MAX planes are operated by Southwest, United, American, and Alaska Air. For Southwest and United, approximately half of their current 737 MAX fleet are affected.
“Boeing recommends operators of some 737 MAX airplanes temporarily remove them from service to address a potential electrical issue,” the Federal Aviation Administration said today in a statement. “The FAA will ensure the issue is addressed. Passengers should contact airlines about possible flight delays and cancellations.”
There’s no indication of what, exactly, the electrical issue is in this case. Neither Boeing nor the FAA have detailed the problem. Nonetheless, grounding aircraft is a significant step, indicating that the issue is a serious one.
It wouldn’t be the first for the 737 MAX, of course. Boeing’s latest iteration of the venerable line of aircraft made headlines over the past couple of years after two fatal crashes, which investigators blamed on a fault in safety systems. The 737 MAX was designed to be more fuel efficient than previous versions, but changes to the aircraft’s balance and safety electronics that lacked redundancies were found to have led to pilots’ actions being overruled in certain scenarios.
As a result, the planes could refuse to correctly respond to flight inputs, potentially leading to crashes. 346 people were killed in the two 737 MAX accidents, and the entire fleet was grounded for almost two years in total as a full safety assessment took place. The final conclusions of that assessment came in November 2020.
737 MAX flights resumed last year, and Boeing has more recently announced fresh orders for the plane. Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines placed orders for more of the aircraft in March, with investment firm 777 Partners also ordering planes that month. The crash fallout is believed to have cost Boeing around $20 billion.