Boeing: ‘Uncertainty’ still surrounds the timing of the 737 Max’s return

  • Boeing’s 737 Max has been grounded since mid-March following two fatal crashes.
  • The manufacturer posted a second-quarter loss due to the grounding of its best-selling plane.
  • The company is testing a software package to bring the planes back but says timing is uncertain.

Boeing is testing software changes to bring its best-selling 737 Max planes back to the skies after two fatal crashes but said the timing of when that would happen is still unclear, the company said.

The manufacturer posted a quarterly loss on Wednesday of $5.82 a share as costs piled up and it took a nearly $5 billion charge to compensate airlines affected by the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max, now in its fifth month.

Crash investigators implicated a piece of flight-control software in both air disasters that repeatedly pushed the nose of the planes downward. A total of 346 people were killed in the two crashes. Boeing has developed a software fix but hasn’t yet submitted it to the Federal Aviation Administration. Regulators have not said when they expect to allow the planes to fly again.

“Disciplined development and testing is underway and we will submit the final software package to the FAA once we have satisfied all of their certification requirements,” Boeing said. “Regulatory authorities will determine the process for certifying the MAX software and training updates as well as the timing for lifting the grounding order.”

The grounding has vexed Boeing’s airline customers that have canceled thousands of flights during a busy summer travel season. Carriers including United, Southwest and American have removed the planes from their schedules until early November, leading to thousands of more flight cancellations. Further delays could crimp their operations during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel period.

Boeing said that the financial guidance it issued earlier this year doesn’t reflect the Max impacts and “due to the uncertainty of the timing and conditions surrounding return to service of the 737 Max fleet” it would issue new guidance at a later date.

Boeing’s $4.9 billion charge and the $1.7 billion increase in costs related to the 737 Max grounding does not include sums that it may have to pay in dozens of lawsuits related to the crashes. A Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October killed all 189 aboard, while an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max that crashed shortly after takeoff in March killed 157 people. It also doesn’t include the $100 million that Boeing said it would set aside for victims’ relatives and their communities. 

Boeing will face questions from industry analysts on a 10:30 a.m. ET call.


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