As the Boeing 737 MAX planes have been gradually reinstated into service this past year, another problem has emerged with the infamous aircraft. Just a couple of months after the FAA approved of the aircraft’s re-entry into service, Boeing has discovered a production error in several of its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and has called for the removal of several of these planes from service. This minor additional issue brings up questions about if this aircraft is actually safe to fly, and it could further damage the reputation of the aircraft type. In this article, we will discuss what the electrical issue actually is and how it has affected airlines with the 737 MAX.
What the issue is
Back in late 2020 when the 737 max production was restarted, Boeing changed the type of coating they used to insulate some of the electrical components on the plane. The change in material affected the plane’s ability to divert or ground electricity in the case of a surge of high voltage. The electrical component responsible for grounding voltage was located inside a standby power unit on the aircraft, preventing it from working properly. This standby power unit was part of three main power generators on the plane, and it is what provided power to the aircraft’s essential systems in an event where both the engine and auxiliary power unit (APU) failed. Although the ability for the standby power unit to ground electricity might not always cause the whole system to fail, the Boeing 737 MAX’s airworthiness might have to be checked again by the FAA.
This small glitch in the electrical system is far from the severity of the problems that caused the grounding of the 737 MAX back in 2019, but it will still require several operators of the 737 MAX to ground their aircraft temporarily. Since this issue mostly applies to jets that were recently built, there are about 460 aircraft that are affected by the minor issue. Most of the aircraft are undelivered yet, and only 90 of the 460 aircraft were in service. There are 16 airlines among those 90 aircraft pulled out of service, and of those 90 aircraft affected, 63 of them are from Southwest, American, and United Airlines. Southwest is the most affected by this issue with the grounding of over half of its entire 737 MAX fleet.
Fortunately, the issue with the Boeing 737 MAX won’t be too harmful to airlines, as the electrical problem is only going to take a few hours or a few days to solve for each jet according to Boeing. However, it is uncertain if this issue will impact the rate of delivery or orders of the aircraft. The positive thing is that Boeing is being transparent about the problems on their aircraft. Boeing willingly informed airlines of the problem and requested the aircraft to be pulled out of service; they are trying to ensure the absolute safety of their planes after their damaged reputation from 2018 and 2019. Boeing is at least being honest about their problems and prioritizing the safety of their aircraft over their profits.
The electrical issues recently discovered on the 737 MAX aren’t going to be severe or damaging to airlines. Airlines should be receiving their grounded 737 MAX’s back soon, and they should be back in service shortly. The electrical problems on the MAX only deal with the grounding of excess electricity if there is a surge of voltage in the standby power unit. This issue is only a tiny detail in the overall mechanics of a Boeing 737 MAX, and the amount of attention focused on this small issue shows how companies are extremely focused on the safety of their planes. Although this problem does not help assuage the tainted reputation of the 737 MAX, it will help Boeing appear as a more honorable and respected company in the aviation industry.
Cover Image: Aerospace Testing International