Why the Boeing 737 MAX 10 should get its waiver from Congress


At this year’s Farnborough Airshow, Boeing won big orders, securing large orders from Delta Air Lines and Qatar Airways for its yet to be certified 737 MAX 10. These agreements, while likely including escape clauses, have put more pressure on Boeing and the US government to find a solution that will allow the MAX 10 to enter service with its current cockpit design. If we were to embark on a thought experiment and put ourselves in Boeing’s shoes, what arguments could be made to certify the MAX 10 with its current cockpit design?


Any part that appears to favor one manufacturer over another tends to attract paid promotion claims. But before starting, it is important to specify that this article is independent of any external influence.

A brief history

For those not yet aware of the situation, Boeing is facing a battle to certify the largest variant of its 737 MAX family before a new cockpit alert safety standard takes effect. Following the two fatal crashes of the 737 MAX 8 in 2018 and 2019, new deadlines were put in place as part of FAA reforms.

The reforms and new standards will come into force at the very beginning of next year. So, if Boeing misses the deadline, it may need to change the crew alerting system on its MAX 10. Changes to the aircraft’s systems will result in less commonality with other variants. MAX and will require additional pilot training. At this point, the MAX 10 should miss its deadline – which is why Boeing is hoping for a congressional waiver to keep the cockpit design as is.

The 737 MAX 7 should be certified before the end of the year deadline. Photo: Getty Images

Simple Flying has continually covered this topic in depth, including statements from Boeing’s CEO alluding to the possibility that the MAX 10 could be scrapped if the company doesn’t get its waiver.

So what reasons would Boeing and airline customers use to justify the MAX 10 being safe to fly in its current form?

Safe operation of other MAX variants

The central argument of most 737 MAX proponents is that the recertified 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 have been operating safely for over a year now, at least in some key jurisdictions. The aircraft type was cleared to fly again in the United States in late 2020, and in late October 2021 we reported that the 737 MAX had already achieved over 500,000 flight hours across all examples in service. By then, some 206,000 revenue flights had been operated by the jet, which equates to 57 years of flying when added together.

Today, in the summer of 2022, 737 MAX aircraft around the world have logged more than three times as many flight hours. Indeed, with more than a dozen new 737 MAX planes entering service each month, the type is reaching new airline customers and getting more and more flight time as the days go by.

In June, a Boeing spokeswoman told ABC News Australia:

“Since November 2020, the 737 MAX has flown more than 1.5 million hours on more than 580,000 revenue flights. The overwhelming majority of those flights have been completed without incident.”

Collectively, the 737 MAX has been in service for over one million flight hours. Photo: Getty Images

With these MAX variants already having so much time in the air, logic would suggest that the MAX 10 and its identical cockpit design would be just as safe to use – at least in terms of the lack of the engine indication system and Alerting Systems (EICAS) that will be required in 2023 and beyond.

Recommendations should not be applied to other MAX variants

As The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, Robert Sumwalt, the NTSB chairman when the 2020 law was drafted, said he never expected the recommendation to update. Cockpit Alert System applies to remaining MAX variants. Speaking to the WSJ, Sumwalt said:

“I think it’s critical for safety to have commonalities between all 737 MAXs, because you don’t want pilots to get confused at the wrong time.”

With Sumwalt’s comments in mind, it seems that having a different system might even be an issue in terms of pilot operations. Yes, the full community saves airlines time and money on training, but pilot confusion between variants must also be considered.

In addition to Sumwalt’s opinion, The New York Times notes that Boeing and some independent safety experts have argued that the existing system found on 737s has proven safe over decades of use in the family of airframes. narrow.

The pressure is on

Bringing a new aircraft variant into service is a major task in itself, not to mention the pressure to meet the critical deadline set by Congress. However, recently announced deals, worth billions of dollars, have put even more pressure on Boeing to provide cockpit commonality for its airline customers. Made public at the Farnborough Airshow, Delta Air Lines kicked things off by placing an order for 100 MAX 10s with 30 options. A few days later, Qatar Airways announced that it would order 25 MAX 10s with 25 options.

These deals carry significant economic weight and with that can often be accompanied by intense political pressure. If the safety reasons listed above carried enough weight and influence, it should be enough to convince Congress to grant the waiver that Boeing is so desperately seeking.

At list prices, the Delta deal is worth more than $13 billion. Photo: Delta Airlines

Counterpoints (and Counterpoints)

Of course, not everyone is convinced that Boeing should get a waiver to avoid installing new safety-related systems. The New York Times notes that Joe Jacobsen, an FAA safety engineer in Seattle, is calling for a review – and is joined by the families of the crash victims. Some experts and insiders have said a modern warning system would have made the MAX a safer aircraft.

The Times article notes that Jacobsen and Ed Pierson, a former Boeing executive who worked with the families for years, raise the issue of FAA and NASA pilot reports, which point to the fact that he remains still a lot of confusion, even in the first year of service. A June report from ABC News Australia says he unearthed “dozens more in-flight incidents on MAX aircraft in the aircraft’s first year back to service.”

The families of the victims of the 737 MAX crashes are insisting that the modifications be made to new aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

The outlet reported finding the following:

  • Six declarations of in-flight emergencies in 2021
  • 22 incidents of MAX flight control system failure
  • Over 42 incidents involving equipment malfunctions. In most of these cases, the planes were grounded to solve the problem.

The outlet adds that an American Airlines flight in April 2021 saw multiple systems (including both autopilot functions) fail shortly after takeoff.

Regarding the reports raised by Jacobson and Pierson, the FAA tells The New York Times that none of the reported incidents were related to MCAS, stating:

“We have made it clear that the aircraft will experience routine in-flight issues, like all other makes and models of aircraft…It is important to distinguish between these issues and those that led to the grounding of the aircraft. the plane.”

Indeed, whether you want to believe it or not, in-flight emergencies, equipment malfunctions, and flight control system issues are encountered on many other aircraft types, beyond the 737 MAX. With this in mind, it is worth considering whether a new system would solve these problems or not.

At the same time, the old adage “prevention is better than cure” will always be hanging over the heads of decision makers. And if something happens to the MAX 10 in service that could have been avoided with EICAS, blame and responsibility will clearly be assigned to decisions made by Congress and Boeing.

What do you think of the situation? Should Boeing be allowed to keep the MAX 10 cockpit as it is? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Sources: ABC News (Australia), Wall Street Journal, The New York Times


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