A Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane performs a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France, June 20, 2017.
| Photo Credit: AP
Boeing’s best-selling 737 MAX aircraft experienced yet another setback last Friday when a cabin panel blew out of an Alaska Airlines plane, compelling the pilots to make an emergency landing at Portland airport in the U.S.
The incident happened in a 737 MAX 9, one of the aircraft’s four variants. Soon after, the operators grounded many of the 737 MAX 9 planes. An inspection ordered just before the accident also led to reports of missing components in two variants.
The U.S. is impacted the most by this incident, as it is the biggest customer of the 737 MAX planes, particularly the 737 MAX 9. Alaska Airlines, which operates from the U.S., grounded all 65 of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes. Another U.S. operator, United Airlines, has suspended service on all 78 of its 737 MAX 9 aircraft. Both the carriers reported “loose bolts” on the doors of their MAX 9 planes this week, following the global inspection ordered by Boeing last December.
No airline in India has the 737 MAX 9 in operation as of now. However, three Indian companies — Air India Express, Akasa Air, and SpiceJet — together have 44 planes of the 737 MAX 8 type, as shown in Chart 1.
Chart 1| The chart shows the number of Boeing 737 MAX 8s and other aircraft types with select airlines.
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Four of them are not in service right now and are parked at various locations. In particular, all the 22 planes operated by Akasa Air are of this variant.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation said on Tuesday that an Indian airline discovered that a “washer” of a 737 MAX 8 plane was missing. However, other than this, inspection of other planes in operation in India did not result in any problematic findings. So, the incident in the U.S. and the inspection ordered earlier did not have any impact on India’s operations.
Table 2 | The table shows the number of deliveries made by Boeing to various countries, of all the 737 MAX variants.
The U.S., Ireland, and China are the top three recipients of 737 MAX. India is ranked 14th on the list. It is important to note that only 18 deliveries have been made directly to airlines in India, whereas 40 planes are in operation. This is because many Indian airlines lease their planes from other operators or companies such as the Air Lease Corporation. The top three recipients of 737 MAX planes from Boeing are Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Ryanair. Airlines in India do not feature in the top 10 recipients as many orders are still in the pipeline.
Table 3| The table shows the number of unfilled orders of all the 737 MAX variants by Boeing to various countries and airlines.
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India is placed fourth, while Air India and SpiceJet are part of the top 10 list among operators.
This is not the first time a Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft has encountered issues. The aircraft was involved in two fatal plane crashes — in October 2018 in Indonesia and in March 2019 in Ethiopia — which together killed 346 people. These accidents triggered the grounding of all 737 MAX planes for nearly two years. Boeing had other woes, too, as it suspended delivery several times over the course of two years of its long-haul 787 because of manufacturing and inspection flaws. Before the latest inspection ordered in December, an earlier check found defects in the plane’s rear bulkhead.
Table 4 | The table shows the 737 MAX aircraft’s share in all of Boeing’s orders and deliveries since the aircraft’s first order in 2011 and first delivery in 2017.
Despite such recurring issues, the 737 MAX is the most ordered and most delivered aircraft of the Boeing family. Lately, the aircraft’s share in both orders and deliveries has been around the 70% mark, making this Boeing’s most selling aircraft.
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