Airlines start repairing Boeing 737 Max planes grounded by electrical problem

United Airlines aircraft, including a Boeing 737 MAX 9 model, are pictured at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas on March 18, 2019.

Loren Elliott | Reuters

Boeing announced Thursday that shipments of 737 Max planes would resume “within a week” after federal officials approved a fix to an electrical problem while US airlines begin repairing dozen of grounded jets.

The Federal Aviation Administration cleared the repair of the manufacturing defect that put more than 100 aircraft into service last month.

Boeing had halted shipments of Max planes it had already manufactured to solve the problem. This has been the company’s most recent obstacle in generating much-needed money.

Boeing stock closed 0.8% after briefly rising to session highs of more than 3%.

The Max planes were on the ground worldwide for 20 months until last November after two fatal crashes. The electrical problem has nothing to do with issues that resulted in the grounding after the crashes between March 2019 and November 2020.

The airlines have been keen to get the planes back in service to meet the resurgent demand for travel as more and more customers are vaccinated against Covid-19 and the attractions reopen.

United Airlines has begun repairs to the aircraft and expects the 17 affected Max jets “to be put back into service in the coming days when we complete our inspection process and ensure that these aircraft meet our strict safety standards”. The Chicago-based airline has a total of 30 Maxes in its fleet.

American Airlines has also started repairs and expects its 18 Max planes that need to be repaired to be back in service in the next few days. Southwest Airlines said work on each aircraft will take two to three days and that “it will take about three weeks to complete compliance work”.

The Dallas-based Southwest has 32 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft that were grounded last month out of a total fleet of 64.

The FAA announced April 29 that it is investigating how the electrical problem occurred. Officials said the manufacturing flaw that occurred after a design change in 2019 resulted in inadequate electrical grounding in some areas of the cockpit, which could ultimately affect systems such as engine ice protection if left unchecked.

The agency also said it is reviewing the Boeing process for minor design changes.

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