WASHINGTON – Federal regulators have approved a Boeing procedure to fix about 100 jets that have been idled for the past month because of improper electrical grounding of some components, and some of the planes could be flying again in the next few days.
A Boeing spokesman said Thursday the company issued service bulletins to airlines and will help them perform the work to fix the planes.
The approval by the Federal Aviation Administration came shortly after the agency’s administrator, Stephen Dickson, told a congressional panel he had “absolute confidence” in the safety of the Max and that fixing the latest problem with the troubled jetliner would be “pretty straightforward.”
Southwest Airlines, the biggest customer for Boeing 737 jets including the Max, estimates that the work will take two to three days per plane. The airline expects to complete the work on its 32 grounded planes in about three weeks, a spokesman said.
American Airlines, which has 18 planes sidelined by the electrical issue, and United Airlines, with 17 grounded Max jets, said they expect those planes to resume flying in the coming days but were not more specific. Alaska Airlines has four grounded Max jets.
The timing of FAA approval is a boost to both Boeing – which is preparing to resume cash-generating deliveries of recently built Max jets – and its airline customers. Airlines can now plan on having the planes to help meet rising demand and expanding flight schedules heading into the peak summer-travel season.The electrical issue affecting a backup power unit and other components was another setback for Boeing’s best-selling plane.
It came just a few months after the planes resumed flying following two deadly crashes and a 20-month worldwide grounding of all Max jets. The electrical issue appeared to be unrelated to the automated flight-control system that played a role in the crashes.
Dickson said Wednesday that the FAA is looking into how the electrical problem surfaced after Boeing made changes on its production line.
Boeing says that since the planes resumed flying late last year, they have made 30,000 flights for 21 different airlines without incident.
Shares of Boeing Co. rose 1% in midday trading after being up about 4% earlier in Thursday’s session.
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