To the astonishment of many, Boeing has launched a new version of its 737 Max, the 737 Max 10, a larger version of the plane that can carry as many as 230 passengers. Somewhat surprisingly, Boeing has numerous orders for the Max 10, including, according to one report, possibly from Lion Air. Still, the unveiling was as low key as can be, with Boeing officials refraining from the usual boasting about the plane and the lineup, and instead talking about the safety of the fix and the Max’s return to service, a date that’s still uncertain but will almost surely be sometime in 2020. Some are pointing to March as a probable date, while others say it might be a longer haul than that. One thing is sure: optimism hasn’t been a good position to take at any point in this sad saga.
It has been more than a year now since our first inkling that Boeing’s newly fielded 737 Max, an update to the hugely successful 737 lineup of single-aisle airliners, had a fatal flaw. It was after the crash of Lion Air 610 after departing Jakarta, Indonesia, that the plane went out of control and crashed, killing all 189 aboard. It was then that most of us first heard of MCAS, an automation system designed to enhance stability that, it was feared, had confused and overpowered the pilots of the Lion Air flight. It was sometime after another 737 Max tragedy, that of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa Airport in Ethiopia, killing 149, that MCAS’s role in the accidents became close to certain. Yet, it was only after a protracted battle from both Boeing and the FAA to keep the 737 Max flying in light of the grounding of the jet by every other aviation regulator in the world, that the FAA finally conceded and grounded the new jet.