Boeing Just Grounded More 737 Max Planes-Again. What’s Going On?

When we last heard from plane-maker Boeing it had just recommissioned all of the 737 Max planes that it was forced by the FAA to ground for 20 months. That was back in November 2020. But today it contacted 16 airline companies to ground some of their 737 jets. Again. What’s the problem this time? 

Boeing contacted 16 airlines to ground certain 737 Max jets

Boeing 737 Max plane behind fence
Workers inspect a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft owned by American Airlines | Getty

According to CNN Business, Boeing contacted the 16 airlines to ground certain 737 Max jets. This is over “a potential electrical issue in a specific group of 737 Max airplanes prior to further operations.” Boeing is working with the FAA “to address the problem.” One would hope.

Boeing is not saying how many planes are involved. Nor are they identifying the airlines it has contacted. The airlines need to verify that a particular part is sufficiently grounded. While it seems like a small problem, small problems are what take down airplanes.

There is potential for a “catastrophic” problem

Speculation is that a backup for the system that powers all of the electrical components on the 737 Max is what Boeing wants airlines to look at. All systems in planes have at least one backup in case of failure of the main system. According to CNN safety analyst David Soucie, grounding means it is significant. There is potential for a “catastrophic” problem taking down the plane. 

Of those 16 airlines, four are headquartered in the US. They are American Airlines, Alaska Air, Southwest Airlines, and United. All are currently flying 737 Max planes. Today Southwest said that 30 of their 58 737 Max planes are affected by this grounding. But 30 planes is a very small percentage of their fleet of over 700 jets. 

two Boeing 737 Max tails
A winglet on the first Boeing 737 MAX airliner | Getty

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For United, 16 of the 30 Max planes in its fleet are affected it says. “We are working to swap out aircraft to minimize the impact to our customers,” it told CNN. “And we are in communication with Boeing to understand the timeline for returning the aircraft safely to our fleet. We do not have an estimate right now.”

All Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded in March 2019

All 737 Max planes were grounded in March 2019 after two fatal crashes occurred. In all 346 people were killed. A malfunction in the safety system was the problem. It took 20 months for the FAA to finally clear the entire fleet of Boeing 737 Max jets to fly once again. Some countries like China haven’t allowed 737 Max planes to fly yet. 

Because of the reduction in air traffic due to the pandemic, a lot of planes have not been put back in service. Airlines are eager to put the 737 Max planes back into service to replace the older 737s that are more fuel-efficient. The good news is that demand for flying is picking up. American has stated it has not seen indication passengers are concerned about flying in Max planes.