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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Under pressure, Boeing drops request for a 737 MAX 7 safety exemption

A Boeing 737 Max 7 lands at Boeing Field in Seattle after a test flight in 2020. The jet’s entry into service will be delayed until Boeing fixes a design flaw in the engine anti-ice system.  (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times)
By Dominic Gates Seattle Times

Under intense political pressure, Boeing on Monday withdrew its request for an exemption from certain safety regulations to allow the 737 Max 7 to be certified to carry passengers.

“We have informed the FAA that we are withdrawing our request for a time-limited exemption relating to the engine inlet deicing system on the 737-7,” Boeing said in a statement. “We will instead incorporate an engineering solution that will be completed during the certification process.”

This means entry into passenger service of the Max 7, the smallest model of the Max family, will be delayed until Boeing can design a fix for the flawed design and get the fix approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who last week was the first in Congress to call for the FAA to deny the exemption, said Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told her Monday that Boeing has come to an agreement with Max 7 customer Southwest Airlines over the inevitable delay in delivering the jet.

“This was a tough decision on their part, but I’m glad they took it because I think this is good for Boeing’s future and also for America’s flying public,” Duckworth said in an interview.

The FAA had determined last summer that a design flaw in the Max’s engine inlet deicing system could be potentially catastrophic. It allowed the Max models currently in service, the Max 8 and Max 9, to continue flying with an instruction to pilots to limit use of the system in certain conditions.

However, with the Max 7 not yet certified, it couldn’t be approved to enter service without an exemption to key safety regulations.

Boeing in December asked for an exemption through June 2026 so that the Max 7 could be certified and enter service this year with Southwest Airlines while it worked on a fix for the flawed system.

Boeing has been under intense scrutiny since a Jan. 5 incident that saw a fuselage piece blow out of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 over Portland. The investigation into that incident is ongoing.