Boeing said it will take “several quarters” to return the global 737 Max fleet to the skies following a grounding that has left about 700 planes on the tarmac.
“We are not going to over-stress the system,“ Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president for marketing, said in an interview Tuesday at the Singapore Airshow.
The Chicago-based manufacturer will first ensure the 400 planes with customers and the 300 more stored in factories are flying again before ramping up production, Tinseth said. “The process of doing this will take several quarters,” he said.
Boeing suspended production of its best-selling aircraft in January, 10 months after regulators grounded the plane following two fatal crashes linked to a software issue. The company said last week it had discovered another software problem on the plane, but still aims to get the jet flying again by mid-2020, a deadline it previously said includes room for additional flaws.
The time needed to return the Max fleet to service, before Boeing picks up the pace of production, will do little to ease pressure on Boeing’s suppliers.
Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., a maker of fuselage, engine pylons and wing components which depends on the Max for half of its sales, has slashed its dividend to preserve cash and laid off 2,800 employees. Supplier United Technologies Corp. has said sales and profit will take a hit this year from the crisis that has engulfed the Max.
One key element of returning the jet to service is training pilots on simulators. While countries like India have advised Boeing to set up simulators locally, Tinseth on Tuesday said existing equipment should cover all training requirements.
“The training that will be linked to the Max is manageable with the simulators that are in the market,” Tinseth said. “If we look at the footprint today that we see in the market, we look at the retraining that is going to be needed to bring those planes back into the marketplace, we’re OK.”