Boeing’s 737 MAX gets a boost

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Boeing’s 737 MAX got a boost Tuesday with confirmation of new orders for the still-grounded plane, but a fresh lawsuit connected to the development of the troubled aircraft poses another challenge for the company.

The aviation giant, which has been in crisis mode since March after the MAX was grounded following a second fatal crash, said it obtained a “firm” order with an unnamed airline for 20 of the 737 MAX planes for $2.3 billion.

The announcement follows an order for 10 MAX planes by Turkey’s SunExpress announced Monday at the Dubai Airshow, and a letter of intent Tuesday from Kazakhstan’s Air Astana for 30 aircraft.

Analysts said the new contracts are a vote of confidence in Boeing, but uncertainty over when the MAX will return to service continues to hang over the company, after the crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights that killed 346 people.

The latest sales announcements are “welcome news for Boeing and an endorsement of the MAX,” said Scott Hamilton of Leeham News, a publication specializing in aviation.

But he added, “The worst won’t be behind Boeing until the FAA recertifies the airplane.”

Michel Merluzeau at AirInsight Research said the orders show Boeing is “on a better path,” but that “recertification remains a big question mark.”

But the schedule for returning the aircraft to the skies has slipped several times, as regulators have raised fresh questions about upgrades, and as the company and the Federal Aviation Administration have come in for scrutiny on the MAX.

Boeing last week pushed back the expected date for resuming flights by one month to January 2020.

Last month, Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg endured two days of bruising congressional hearings at which lawmakers accused the company of cutting corners on safety to rush out the MAX to compete with an Airbus model.

The probes have centered on a Boeing flight handling system, the MCAS, that has been implicated in both crashes.


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