Boeing Threatens To End The 737 MAX 10 Unless It’s Exempted From New Safety Requirement

Newly certified aircraft have to have upgraded alert systems for pilots. Issues with the Boeing 737 MAX MAX that led to the Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes are, in part, addressed by mandatory new alerts for pilots that will apply to all newly-certified aircraft types. But unless the FAA agrees to exempt the Boeing 737 MAX 10 from this requirement, which they can only do by the end of 2022, Boeing’s CEO says they’ll walk away from the plane project and all of the orders it represents.

If The Government Doesn’t Certify The MAX 10 This Year, New Requirements Kick In

The Boeing 737 MAX 10 variant of the plane hasn’t yet been certified. It faces a December deadline to qualify for exemption from these rules. The alert systems have been upgraded compared to earlier MAXs, but if the plane isn’t certified this year then it can’t qualify for an exemption without an act of Congress.

Boeing Says If They’re Forced To Add Safety Requirements, They’ll Kill The Project

The FAA says they’re not likely to complete certification work this year, and that creates a standoff. Boeing’s CEO says he’ll walk away from the Boeing 737 MAX 10 project entirely if the plane doesn’t get exempted from new cockpit alert standards.

That would mean giving up on about 700 orders for the largest 737 MAX variant, although some of those might get converted to smaller planes. It could also mean losing orders to Airbus. United is a big customer for the as-yet unreleased aircraft and so is Alaska Airlines. United is expected to fly these planes on premium cross country routes. Delta has even been expected to finalize an order for 100 of them.

Boeing Plays Chicken Through The End Of The Year

I have to believe Boeing’s CEO is playing chicken. Revisions to the aircraft would entail significant expense and it would mean delays, which could cost it orders and also cost the company penalties for failing to meet delivery date targets.

However walking away from the United fleet refresh, putting Alaska Airlines back into the market to consider Airbus (!), and giving up on finally getting a toehold into Delta aircraft orders after years of that major carrier only buying Airbus seems like blowing up its competitiveness in the narrowbody space. Plus, Boeing has no other plausible alternative replacement for the Boeing 757 (even though it isn’t quite one).

To be sure, a modified cockpit for the 737 MAX 10 would mean different training for pilots – and pilot training commonality with past 737s was the entire reason for the MCAS system which led to so many problems in the first place.

Who Blinks, And When?

The FAA could finish by the end of the year, which they’ve said is unlikely. They already look bad for exempting earlier MAXs from certification standards and won’t want to do that again and look like they’re caving to Boeing on timeline. Even if they’re going to sign off, their only bureaucratic means of showing toughness against Boeing is delay.

Congress can extend the period in which they can obtain exemptions. But it seems likely that would wait until the November-December period, if it were to happen, because no one wants to campaign on exempting Boeing from safety standards. So the federal government and Boeing are likely to be playing chicken on the future of the MAX 10 for the next six months, with Boeing in the uncomfortable position for seeking exemptions to more stringent safety standards on the Boeing 737 MAX.

The 737 MAX Is A Safe Aircraft

To be clear I believe that the 737 MAX is a safe aircraft. The MAX now compares data from both angle of attack sensors – a key vulnerability that contributed to the two crashes – and if there’s a material difference between the sensors then the MCAS system will be inhibited throughout the flight. MCAS now only activates once per incident, eliminating repetitive nose-down pitch. And pilots maintain elevator authority for the aircraft.

Runaway stab trim is inhibited automatically, no longer requiring use of a non-normal checklist. But pilots are receiving explicit training on the issues that occurred with the MAX previously nonetheless.

And make no mistake, these are rare issues to begin with – American Airlines for instance never had a single issue with trim or angle of attack in over 7000 773 MAX flights prior to the aircraft’s grounding, and never had angle of attack issues in over 700,000 hours of Boeing 737-800 flying involving the same part.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Cutting off their nose to spite their attack sensors?

    What part of “public image” and “profitability” does Boeing not understand? Just because the MAX is airborne once again, just because there hasn’t ‘been another crash involving a MAX aircraft, AND just because the MAX is now a safe aircraft, does NOT mean the public feels comfortable flying them. To draw a line in the sand and (attempt to) demand an exemption from safety requirements….in what universe is this a good strategy when you have a BAD public image and (one would think) you want to improve?

    Push Alaska back towards Airbus? Guess what? Airbus narrow bodies are better anyway. I’ve been hoping that AS would *keep* the Airbus 320s and 321s from VX anyway!

    As has often been said, the 737 platform is the most popular commercial aircraft in history. Kill the project? This only makes sense if they want to either limit themselves to wide bodies, or to simply being a defense contractor. If Boeing thinks that’s the way to increased profitability for their shareholders (and their golden parachutes, though clearly not jumping from a MAX), hey — go for it.

  2. While I understand trying to leverage situations to gain a business advantage this is, IMHO, a horrible statement from Boeing. They could work behind the scenes with the FAA to get certification but to publicly make this statement after not just the crashes, which could have involved lack of pilot training, but exposure of the shoddy way Boeing and the FAA worked to get the original MAX certified in the first place is horrible optics (and I hate that phrase). Boeing, of ALL companies, should go above and beyond to ensure any safety issues are addressed and should implement not only the current requirements but those reasonable projected for the future.

    I have no problem flying on a MAX but can’t believe this BS coming from them.

  3. Are you f*****g kiddin’ me? Boeing? The 737 Max?

    Regardless of the honesty and accuracy of the statements, the optics are, well, disgusting.

    Plus, they’ve made life a lot easier for some future lawyers if they ever have a Max crash (for any reason) in the future.

  4. The cynic in me wonders whether this is a plan by some messed up senior executive that just wants to dump the Max and find a way to blame the government for it when they look for their next job.

  5. This is quite simply nuts on the part of Boeing. What a major unforced strategic error.

  6. While I hate the government bureaucracy as much as the next guy, Boeing has nobody to blame but itself for losing its self certifying authority. Directly due to Boeing’s bullshit, it’s now almost impossible to get a new insurance policy on an aircraft. The wheels have come off at that company.

  7. Alternatively, maybe they’re being relatively honest, and to make this type of fix is simply so costly that it’s not worth the entire line and it’s better to just give up the orders. If that’s the case, then heads should roll simply for building a plane and process that couldn’t absorb something like this.

    The irony is, they kind-a did it to themselves with their initial approach to selling the Max, and their subsequent arrogance as things went south.

  8. “The cynic in me wonders whether this is a plan by some messed up senior executive that just wants to dump the Max and find a way to blame the government for it when they look for their next job.”

    Makes one wonder doesn’t it. Boeing should be in NO position to dictate the terms.

    Several weeks ago I flew ET out of Addis. The bus pulled up to a 737 MAX. I figured it was safe, but I was really agitated when I got on the plane, thinking about what Boeing did and the needless loss of life they were responsible for. I was flying out of Addis the morning of the crash. The whole thing just hits close to home and pisses me off.

  9. The government just disappeared 40+ billion dollars in ukraine. A lot of that probably went to the Boeing Defense unit. Boeing figures fighting wars is much more profitable and a lot less red tape than trying to certify a commercial airliner.

  10. I don’t understand what leverage Boeing thinks they have here. “Do X or I kill the project” only works if the other party has a vested interest in it. What interest does the FAA have in whether or not the MAX 10 continues? They’re not buying them. So strange.

  11. “American Airlines for instance never had a single issue with trim or angle of attack in over 7000 773 MAX flights prior to the aircraft’s grounding, and never had angle of attack issues in over 700,000 hours of Boeing 737-800 flying involving the same part.”

    I think there’s a typo there: 773 MAX should be 737 MAX (unless there’s a new 777-300 MAX…)

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying about the 737-800, though. The NG family doesn’t have MCAS. Nothing important breaks if its AoA vane stops working. Pilots just lose AoA data if they even had that in the first place (as I recall, display of AoA data was an option airlines could select or not.) Certainly, AoA data is not required to fly a plane. It never hurts to have it, but it’s definitely not necessary in any way and lots of airplanes don’t even have AoA vanes.

  12. Certification of the MAX10 has absolutely nothing to do with the previous MAX problems. EVERY change to a model – shorter, longer – has to be certified.
    Boeing has not completely the certification process for the MAX 10 OR the MAX 7 which WN has on order.

    These rules didn’t just come out; they have been on the books for years.

    And the 757 – which Boeing terminated – had EICAS while NONE of the MAX family has it.

    Rules exist to move forward w/ technology; the MAX is a step backwards and LAWS exist to prevent that from happening.

  13. @Dan The statement is not aimed so much at the FAA as at Congress. Politicians – especially those whose districts include Boeing plants or suppliers – very much do have a vested interest in not killing off an American commercial airplane for no good reason. (And, no, this isn’t a good reason. Boeing is right that making the MAX 10’s cockpit different from that of the 8 and 9 would be incredibly stupid and not at all helpful to safety. Optics aside, killing off the MAX 10 because the FAA can’t get it certified before an arbitrary deadline set by Congress is unhelpful to everyone… except Airbus.)

  14. @Tim Dunn The law in question was passed literally last year. It has not “been on the books for years.” The MAX 8 and 9 variants had already been in service for years before that act was passed.

  15. So, Boeing still thinks its bigger than the Government. They’ve just proven what we knew all along. Profit before safety. So, have at Boeing, walk away from the 737-10 MAX, please. With that attitude it makes you wonder what else they’re trying to hide. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  16. So, Boeing still thinks its bigger than the Government. They’ve just proven what we knew all along. Profit before safety. So, have at it Boeing, walk away from the 737-10 MAX, please. With that attitude it makes you wonder what else they’re trying to hide. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  17. The article that @Gary links to in his post is enlightening. Looks like meeting the post 2022 standards would require a significant change to the cockpit, instrumentation, etc. This would break the -10 from commonality (big issue already identified in post) and, I suspect, even MORE recertification work (in addition to engineering challenges, etc). With only 700 airframes on the line, I’m guessing Boeing is making an economic decision. The $engineering + $recertification + $contract penalties due to delay + $lost due to order cancellations >> potential profit on -10 if modifications are required.

  18. As if the MAX brand is not tainted enough. I for one will never choose to travel in a MAX and that assumes the Safety issues are correctly addressed by Certification by the FAA.
    The whole business model stinks. People will one day wake up to what MAX means. Not maximum comfort for passengers for sure. The MAX put larger engines on the 737 so it could increase weight. Some of it was fuel for greater range, helped by newer generation engines. But mainly it was to squeeze in more passengers in tighter seats with thinner cushions. I bet you can no longer use the cushions for flotation in an emergency because they have no volume. Damn passenger comfort.
    Now Boeing is moving it’s headquarters to the DC area all the better to lobby Government.
    This business plan sickness started long ago, maybe with Jack Welch. Until Boeing get back to their Washington State roots and methods I fear they have lost the plot. There is more than shareholder value to an honest company.

  19. @vbscript2
    the law that requires EICAS in new models was passed in 2020; we are in 2022.
    And the MAX 7 is also not certified yet; Boeing has been trying to get both the MAX 7 and MAX 10 certified and is further along with the MAX 7 and will likely meet the deadline.

    John Bell,
    ALL new aircraft models with new generation engines burn less fuel on comparable segments. The MAX does have longer range because of newer engines but that is true of every model.
    Airlines don’t want to spend more money on fuel than you do.

  20. They want an exemption from safety requirements? How dumb is their leadership? The FAA should say no way. Boeing can take the L on this.

  21. RF
    Gary seems to think that HIS assessment of whether the MAX is safe or not matters.
    It doesn’t.
    Rules are rules.
    Boeing knows those rules.
    The MAX 10 and MAX 7 are different models of the MAX.’

    and, most importantly, the MAX 10 and MAX 7 HAVE NOT flown in revenue service. There is no basis for knowing if those two models are safe or not.
    That concept SHOULD NOT be that hard for even Gary to grasp.

  22. Do we really have to be forced to acknowledge the corruption at the highest levels in this country? I prefer to think of America as it was 60 years ago when the corruption was still as bad as today, but we commoners didn’t know about it. Boeing is such a terrific example of corner-cutting highly rewarded.

  23. 364 people already died in the hands of Boeing.

    The only thing to do is to bring the new SAFETY requirements forward (why wait until January 1???) and let Boeing decide.

  24. As was alluded to above, the 757 has/had everything that Boeing is trying to squeeze into the 737MAX. However, in their infinite wisdom they elected to throw the 757 in the trash bin. Rather than do the tough sell to a couple of their customers that the 737 was at the end of its life and they needed to add another airframe to their fleet, they took the easy way out. The consequences of that poor decision may ultimately result in the demise of the Boeing commercial aircraft division.

  25. Everyone should step back and watch the documentary, “Downfall” of Boeing. The whole business of underhanded, slight of hand, sneaky tricks…create your own moniker was the acquisition of McDonnell-Douglas years ago. MD’s executives took over. They made a conscious choice to move the headquarters to Chicago! What the hell were they thinking? Main assembly in Everett, Renton and Charleston, so. let’s move the headquarters to Chicago. Hey…good food, high crime, away from the annoying people who actually BUILD the things. Now…they’re moving headquarters to Washington, DC! They are even further away from the folks who make the planes AND closer to the government corruption which (apparently) the executives of Boeing want. It used to be, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.” Now, “If it’s a MAX, I ain’t a PAX!” Wake up Boeing…the toilet bowl is flushing and you’re in the whirlpool!

  26. and @win whitmire
    no one should condemn an airline that takes a hard pass on Boeing products.
    Even Delta’s attempts to buy Boeing after a multi-year pause might be sabotaged by Boeing’s own executives.
    You can’t make up how badly screwed up Boeing is.

    or how badly Gary fails to understand the issues that are at stake.

  27. The real cause of this is government changing the rules in the middle of the game just like when billions were spent and years of construction done on the keystone pipeline for the rules to be changed and claims by Ameriindians coming out of left field. Boeing never intended to build this variant under the new rules.

    All the issues for the 777X have nothing to,do with Boeing or safety but brand new rules which came into effect for new aircraft and which are being applied to the 777X despite it basically being a stretch version. The folding wingtips aren’t even the issue with certification.

    Boeing should use this as an opportunity to cancel the Max as soon as possible and end the 737 line. They can build the other approved variants and retire the model. The stock price is down a lot from the highs and it makes sense to just come out and say they are building two brand new aircraft, the MoM and new narrow body, from scratch. It’s a lot,easier to do when the stock price is this low and when the whole market is lower. They can build their commercial future on a new narrow body, a MoM, the 787 and whatever new carbon fiber model that is derived from it, and the 777X.

  28. Good riddance, less possibility of being stuck on crappy 737 with 17″ seat width and more Air Bus’ A32X with 18.

    The 737 is well best it’s sell date.

  29. Hey Boeing: go ahead, make my day! OK, that’s an old line but it works here. Seriously, Boeing can eff off with this threat. If they want to kill off this variant, fine – more A321’s for the rest of us. And perhaps they can get to work on an original design of a modern passenger jet as opposed to a hobbycrafted 60 year old design.

    This company has truly gone down the toilet in recent years. Boeing used to be a company that we were proud was American. Now, it’s like so many other formerly-great institutions in this country: an embarrassment.

  30. Why would FAA want to hurry and certify an overstretched 737 without the safety devices that are already installed on many other aircrafts and become mandatory in a few months. They’re there for a reason. I would appreciate FAA put as much scrutiny as possible in this review. They certify it and we’re stuck with less safe aircraft for the next 20-30 years.

    And no, MAX isn’t really safe. Yes, it’s safer than it was before the crashes. But fundamentally it’s still a very overstretched 737 . It’s a different aircraft that should have been designed from scratch and have different pilot training. Yes, it would make it far less popular with the airlines but so what? Build a good plane and airlines will buy it anyway – look at 787. Boeing preferred to kill over 300 people though. Need more?

  31. @John Bell and @Kevin Kong are spot on. I suspect BA will lobby the hell out of members of Congress whose districts have manufacturing interests linked to the -10. They’ll probably get some bs extension from congress for -10s that BA already built and then get them rubber stamped by the FAA in a sweetheart deal. BA execs wrapping themselves in the American flag -with blood on their hands- in the name of keeping jobs (read: PAC contributions) in those districts/away from Airbus is the predictable play.

  32. I hope they DO cancel it. Do the flying public a favor. These are ancient designs with new engines. It’s the equivalent of a Chevy Chevette with 22 inch rims, a v8 engine and electronic dash. Yeah it ‘technically’ works, but is still an ancient design. Lipstick on a pig. Perfume on poop. Their short-term quick profit thinking got them here so let the cards fall where they may. They don’t have the time or resources (or will even) to come up with new modern designs? Oh well. So sad what happen to that once great company.

  33. I hope they cancel it! The Max is not a safe aircraft as it violates the basic rules of aerodynamics. The Max 10 is more unsafe as the engines are even further towards the front (by stretching the rear).

    The best thing that could happen is to allow Boeing to go into full bankruptcy. Then a new stronger Boeing could be reborn without the shortsighted current leadership.

    “yeah we paid off inspectors and killed hundreds of innocent civilians with the Max-8, so let’s do it again for the Max-10”

  34. @Jason Brandt Lewis
    “If Boeing thinks that’s the way to increased profitability for their shareholders (and their golden parachutes, though clearly not jumping from a MAX), hey — go for it.”

    It is not possible to jump out of a pressurized aircraft during flight, especially a 737 due to the plug-type door design.

  35. @K.C. Cooper. You seem informed about jumping out of Boeing aircraft. Any relation to D.B. Cooper?
    I promise I won’t tell anyone…

  36. How is this helpful to the stockholders of Boeing? Giving up market share due to an additional expense, but still a profitable product is just plain stupid, especially when you only have yourself to blame for that additional expense!

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