Boeing has advised 16 customers to temporarily ground several of their 737 Max jets due to a new production problem involving its electrical system, the company said Friday. The latest technical setback for the Boeing 737 Max calls for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for what Boeing termed a component of the electrical power system.
“We are working closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on this production issue,” said Boeing in a statement. “We are also informing our customers of specific tail numbers affected and we will provide direction on appropriate corrective actions.”
The three biggest operators of the Max in North America—United, Southwest, and American Airlines—appear most affected by the recommendation due to the respective sizes of their fleets. However, all plan to backfill lost capacity with other airplanes, minimizing service interruptions.
United Airlines, whose fleet includes 30 Maxes, said it has grounded 16 of them “out of an abundance of caution.” The airline added that it remains in communication with Boeing over the timeline for the return of the airplanes to service and that it still has gotten no estimate. It also referred AIN to the FAA for information on an upcoming airworthiness directive.
For American Airlines, the issue has resulted in the grounding of 17 Max airplanes out of a total fleet of 41. “We have 24 other 737 Max aircraft in our fleet that are not affected by this issue as they were produced and delivered prior to the ungrounding,” said American in a statement. “We will continue to work with the FAA, Boeing, and our union leaders and their safety teams as a thorough assessment of the issue is completed.”
Finally, Southwest Airlines said it has grounded 30 of its 58 Maxes, but added it expects the grounding to have little effect on its schedules. The airline’s fleet consists of more than 700 Boeing 737s. “We expect very minimal operational disruption as we have spare aircraft in our system to handle the up to 44 daily flights scheduled for the Max 8 aircraft,” it said in a statement. “Southwest is currently operating a limited schedule with the Max and only has up to fifteen 737 Max 8 aircraft scheduled to fly each day.”
Southwest added that, like American Airlines, it cannot yet estimate when it might return the 30 grounded airplanes to service and that it awaits guidance on a fix from Boeing.