Boeing Withdraws 737-7 MAX Safety Exemption

Boeing has withdrawn a safety exemption request for its 737-7, thus throwing the timeline for approval for the variant back up in the air.

A controversial yet critical part of the 737-7 certification puzzle has received another update. At the beginning of this week, Boeing withdrew a request for a safety exemption.

If Boeing had secured the safety exemption, it would’ve likely been able to speed up certification of the 737-7, the smallest member of the MAX family.

However, this safety exemption had long been debated and criticized, as the belief was that a safety exemption for an already under-fire series and plane maker wouldn’t go down well.

These concerns were only highlighted following a door blowout incident on an Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX that grounded 171 aircraft for a multi-week period. Additionally, after the blowout, new concerns emerged over the plane makers’ production practices, thus leading to more pressure.

The safety exemption relates to the anti-icing system specifically. At the time of this being identified regulators sent forward instructions to other operators of MAX variants which were said to be affected, but obviously then much focus was placed on the uncertified 737-7.

Timeline Once More Unclear

Certification for the Boeing 737-7 and its uncertified counterpart, 737-10, has largely remained unclear in the last 12 months.

The aircraft manufacturer previously published guidance on when it expected the planes to be certified; however, after multiple missed windows, it became apparent that this wasn’t achieving anything, somewhat hampering customers’ forecasting and the public’s view of the variants.

With removing a safety exemption request for the 737-7s certification, the expectation is that the EIS will be pushed even further back than it was already. These new predictions usher concern for the larger 737-10, primarily considered the more complex variant to certify.

Airlines Impacted

Several airlines are slated to be impacted by the 737-7 delays, however, there would be significant arguments made that the primary focus of recent talk is Southwest.

Southwest, a major U.S. airline calls the 737 family home, whether through 737NGs or the MAX their commitment is strong and large. The company is expected hundreds of 737-7s in the future, however, plans on when these aircraft will arrive continue to change.

In late-2023 the airline estimated an April 2024 certification, with this factoring in any potential but obviously now the 737-9 doorblowout incident. With an April 2024 certification in mind delivery would also occur in 2024 and best-case scenario towards Q4 2024 the airline would fly the aircraft.

Now, Southwest will be waiting and encourting delays. The airline is lucky that it has a large fleet that can cover for the lost capacity, however, whenever planes are delayed there are obvious frustrations. Additionally, it has the potential to switch towards other vairnats in the MAX series that are certified.

Latest news indicates that Southwest is willing to wait until 2027 if necessary to get the 737-7 right amid safety concerns and delays to final approval. During a conference in Dublin, the airline said that they’ll continue to wait for the aircraft as it’s one they do truly want.

Daniel Fowkes
02 Feb 2024
· Aircraft 

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