As the global grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max drags on, airlines are eyeing a new challenge on the horizon: a holiday travel season without a full fleet.
When all variations of the 737 Max were grounded in March, following the second deadly crash in five months, Boeing and airlines that fly the plane were optimistic that it could be returned to service quickly. A relatively simple software update was expected to be approved and implemented this summer.
The software fix initially addressed a potential flaw with the plane’s MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. MCAS is an automated system that compensates for the fact that the 737 Max has larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, MCAS could automatically point the nose downward to negate the effect of the engine size.