On this day one year ago, Air Canada was the very last carrier to operate a commercial flight with a Boeing 737 MAX 8 (C-FSIP). Very few expected that the grounding would have lasted that long, even the longest ever of a U.S. airliner as Boeing tackled newly discovered problems and faced increased regulator scrutiny.
A look back on what happened:
On 29 October 2018, a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 (PK-LQP) operating flight JT610 from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang and carrying 189 people, including crew, crashed into the sea off the island of Java shortly after take-off.
On 10 March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 (reg. ET-AVJ, MSN 62450) flying from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, on flight ET302 with 149 passengers and 8 crew members crashed at 08:44 near the city of Bishoftu, some 62 km southeast of Addis Ababa.
Nobody of the 346 passengers and crew members survived the crashes.
On 13 March 2019, U.S. aviation regulators grounded all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft after the FAA discovered new evidence of accident similarities between the two disasters.
Shortly before, the Canadian Ministry of Transport restricted commercial passenger flights from any air operator, both domestic and foreign, of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from arriving, departing or overflying Canadian airspace. The first government regulator to ground the MAX model was the Civil Aviation Administration of China (11 March 2019). Many other countries followed suit. By 18 March, all 387 aeroplanes were grounded, disrupting 8,600 weekly flights by 59 airlines.
In December 2019, Boeing ousted its CEO over mismanagement of the crisis.
Challenges ahead to reintroduce the Boeing 737 MAX
An upcoming challenge for Boeing will be to convince reluctant travellers to get on board the 737 MAX. The risk exists that the reintroduction will be a commercial flop: in the 1950ies, the De Havilland Comet was grounded for more than 4 years after three crashes in one year; after it took to the air again, nobody wanted to fly on it and the aircraft was abandoned. Some airlines thus suggest to drop the MAX part of the aircraft name and call it simply Boeing 737-8.
When the aircraft will be certified to fly again, most airlines will not reintroduce it right away on regular flights but will operate a number of training flights with the crew and with management people of the airline onboard to show it is safe.
Financial impact on the aviation industry and economic effects1
The Boeing 737 MAX groundings have had a deep financial effect on the aviation industry and a significant effect on the national economy of the United States. No airline took delivery of the MAX during grounding. Boeing slowed MAX production to 42 aircraft per month until in January 2020, when they halted until the aeroplane is reapproved by regulators.
Boeing has suffered directly through increased costs, loss of sales and revenue, loss of reputation, victims litigation, client compensation, decreased credit rating and lowered stock value. In January 2020, the company estimated a loss of $18.4 billion for 2019, and it reported 183 cancelled MAX orders for the year.
Its extensive supply chain providing aircraft components and flight simulators have suffered similar losses as have the aircraft services industry, including crew training, the aftermarket and the aviation insurance industry have also suffered. Its customers, the airlines and aircraft lessors, have had their operations and strategic plans severely disrupted.
1 Source: wikipedia