Renton, Washington-based Boeing Airplanes grounded all 737MAX flights indefinitely due to engine quality concerns.
The airline said in a statement, “Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to temporarily suspend MAX flights. The step is consistent with our priority focus on safety for all who use and fly our products.
The grounding is said to be focusing on the CFM Leap-1B engines outfitted on all operational 737MAX aircraft built so far. CFM is a joint venture between Boston, Massachusetts-based General Electric and Paris, France-based Safran, a technology developer. CFM is notable for producing the CFM56, the most common engine on the Boeing 737, the world’s most popular commercial aircraft. The CFM56 engine is said to be operated by over 550 carriers across the globe.
Each and every affected engine will be detached from the aircraft being tested, and sent back to their manufacturing sites in Lafayette, Louisiana or Villaroche, France. This is a massive speedbump to the otherwise smooth and quick development program of Boeing’s newest single-aisle airliner, the 737MAX.
The airline says it is up to CFM on which particular engines to inspect, and that the first 737 MAX example should be able to make it to Malaysia on time to operate for Batik Air, the aircrafts’ launch customer. Another airline that plans on operating the 737MAX extensively is Norwegian Air Shuttle, who has announced plans to pioneer a new age of transatlantic, narrowbody service between the Northeast USA and England/Ireland with the MAX.
“We know that the grounding will result in a few days delay of the first MAX delivery to Norwegian,” said an airline representative. She also noted the airline plans on keeping it’s June 15th delivery date intact.
Jamie Jewell, a CFM spokeswoman, told CNN that last week’s inspections found “some anomalies in the process” of manufacturing disks for the CFM Leap turbine. She also noted that there were no previous problems with the engine in over 2,000 hours of testing the aircraft over the last 15 months.
The 737MAX was approved for production in August 2011 as a competitor to the ultra-efficient Airbus NEO family of aircraft that was announced in 2010. The MAX has 14% less fuel burn than it’s predecessors, and 4% less than it’s primary competitor, the NEO. Since it’s announcement, the aircraft has picked up >3,700 orders, the biggest coming from Spicejet (205), Southwest Airlines (170), Norwegian Air Shuttle (108), American Airlines (100), and Ryanair (100).
Needless to say, the grounding of these aircraft could become a major setback in the aircraft’s development and testing.