Boeing 737 MAX 9. Photo: Boeing.

MIAMI – The Boeing 737 MAX, re-certified a few days ago by the American Aviation Authority (FAA), is in the hands of 700 workers behind the gray doors of a three-bay hangar at Grant County International Airport (MWH) in Moses Lake, a deserted airport in the state of Washington.

Within these hangars, the 737 MAXs are undergoing maintenance in an endless 24-hour cycle, with associated checks of the software and system updates as required by the US FAA.

Workers in yellow vests inspect approximately 240 jets inside MWH. According to investment firm Jefferies, it is important to lift the blockade of up to 450 jets before Boeing can resume significant production of its traditional cash cow. This is not entirely simple, as many buyers have canceled orders after the incidents.

Each aircraft is parked on the tarmac; consequently, to protect the aircraft, each jet is equipped with red engine covers and wheel covers, a windshield to block the sun and a small generator that feeds cycles of fresh air and electricity.

Boeing Company 737MAX-9 N7379E seen departing runway 22 at London Stansted (EGSS, STN). Picture: Thomas Saunders.

Statement from Moses Lake Manager

Airport director Rich Muller said about the staff working on MAX aircraft, “It’s an enormous undertaking; but this go-ahead from the FAA has given them a real shot in the arm. It’s really energized everyone.”

Moses Lake Airport is a milestone for Boeing. It guarantees a global logistics and financial strategy to eliminate a total of 800 out-of-service 737 MAX, including 450 Boeing-owned and the other 387 that were in service before their grounding by the FAA in March 2019.

Boeing Flight Test & Evaluation – MARCO, Glasgow MT, 737MAX, 1A002, APU water spray testing, 007-10

Hard Times

Around the world, Boeing is setting the delivery schedule, with airlines having to scale schedules and fly on obsolete airliners last year because they didn’t have the MAX to meet the high demand as the grounding of the 737 MAX dragged on for a long time.

It must also be said that the jet is returning at a time of full crisis, where the pandemic has hammered air travel and the delivery of new jets. Arndt Schoenemann, chief executive officer of Liebherr-Aerospace Lindenberg, says, “Airlines and the supply chain won’t see major deliveries until 2022. Right now, COVID is the biggest problem for the industry.”

A Boeing spokesperson did not comment on the steps the company is taking before the 737 MAX goes to customers, which include installing a flight control software update and separating the bundles of cables that represented potential safety hazard.

Boeing 737-MAX7 first flight Photo: Brandon Farris

White Tails

According to what was said by the airlines, it takes at least two weeks to prepare each plane with the maintenance service and software updates, although Boeing has deployed worldwide technicians to help companies with these tasks.

Due to the crisis in jet demand, workers at Moses Lake airport prepared a Boeing “white-tailed” 737 MAX on Thursday. This means that a MAX buyer has either changed or that the aircraft is simply without a buyer.

Reuters counted 12 white tail queues at Moses Lake on Thursday. Boeing declined to comment. Additionally, the jets are also stored at the Boeing property in both Seattle and San Antonio, Texas. Boeing is in talks with several airlines including Southwest (WN), Delta (DL) and Alaska Airlines (AS) to take the types.

These agreements should include significant discounts. To start the recovery of the MAX and contain any impact on the valuation of the jet by offering generous discounts, Boeing, to recover the lost ground, would have to carry a handful of great deals with customers who will put them in service for a long time.

The price of the 737 MAX 8 is US$122m, but due to increased competition, prices have dropped dramatically. As such, most jets are privately sold well over 50% below the list price. and the new MAX discount could be way beyond that, according to jet dealers.

The FAA said it plans in-person inspections of all 450 aircraft, which could take a year to complete, extending jet deliveries for quite a while. In the mean time, Boeing is paying around US$51,000 per plane on a monthly basis to park its MAXs.

Featured image: Boeing 737 MAX-9. Photo: Boeing