The Boeing Company, embroiled in controversy surrounding the safety of its 737 Max aircraft following a pair of crashes, is slowing production of its fastest-selling plane as it moves resources to focus on getting the type returned to service.
All 737 Max aircraft were grounded around the world in the wake of a crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians. The Ethiopian Airlines crash followed a similar crash less than five months earlier in Indonesia.
Boeing is reducing production of the Max from 52 per month to 42, a 19% cut.
In Canada, there are a total of 41 grounded Max planes. Both Westjet and Air Canada have substantial outstanding orders of the 737 Max, with Air Canada turning to the type to form the backbone of its short-haul fleet, as older Airbus models are retired. It was not immediately clear how Friday’s announcement would affect them.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement, “We are coordinating closely with our customers as we work through plans to mitigate the impact of this adjustment. We will also work directly with our suppliers on their production plans to minimize operational disruption and financial impact of the production rate change.”
BELOW: A map showing Westjet and Air Canada planned 737 Max operations the day they were grounded, March 13, 2019.
Boeing said employees will be shifted to software certification as it rolls out a fix for software that likely led or contributed to the fatal crashes.
“I recently had the opportunity to experience the software update performing safely in action during a 737 MAX 7 demo flight,” said Muilenburg. “We’re also finalizing new pilot training courses and supplementary educational material for our global MAX customers.”
At the same time Boeing is establishing a committee of board members to review review policies and procedures to make sure the company has the “highest level of safety” on the Max and other aircraft.
Canada’s major airlines have juggled schedules and aircraft since the grounding, with Air Canada adjusting its schedule until the end of May to cover 98% of previously planned flying through the end of May.