‘Uncertainty’ still surrounds the 737 Max’s return

‘Uncertainty’ still surrounds the 737 Max’s return

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are stored in an area adjacent to Boeing Field, on June 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. After a pair of crashes, the 737 MAX has been grounded by the FAA and other aviation agencies since March, 13, 2019.

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Boeing is testing software changes to bring its best-selling 737 Max planes back to the skies after two fatal crashes but said the timing of when that would happen is still unclear, the company said.

The manufacturer posted a quarterly loss on Wednesday of $5.82 a share as costs piled up and it took a nearly $5 billion charge to compensate airlines affected by the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max, now in its fifth month.

Crash investigators implicated a piece of flight-control software in both air disasters that repeatedly pushed the nose of the planes downward. A total of 346 people were killed in the two crashes. Boeing has developed a software fix but hasn’t yet submitted it to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Disciplined development and testing is underway and we will submit the final software package to the FAA once we have satisfied all of their certification requirements,” Boeing said. “Regulatory authorities will determine the process for certifying the MAX software and training updates as well as the timing for lifting the grounding order.”

The grounding has vexed Boeing’s airline customers that have canceled thousands of flights during a busy summer travel season. Carriers including United, Southwest and American have removed the planes from their schedules until early November, leading to thousands of more flight cancellations. Further delays could crimp their operations during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.

Boeing said that the financial guidance it issued earlier this year doesn’t reflect the Max impacts and “due to the uncertainty of the timing and conditions surrounding return to service of the 737 Max fleet” it would issue new guidance at a later date.

Boeing’s $4.9 billion charge and the $1.7 billion increase in costs related to the 737 Max grounding does not include sums that it may have to pay in dozens of lawsuits related to the crashes. A Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October killed all 189 aboard, while an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max that crashed shortly after takeoff in March killed 157 people.

Boeing will face questions from industry analysts on a 10:30 a.m. ET call.

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