Boeing will halt production on its infamous 737 MAX plane nine months after authorities grounded the passenger airliner following crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that took 346 lives.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on Monday that the beleaguered aviation company has made the decision to temporarily suspend manufacturing of the aircraft in January.
News of the MAX production suspension comes less than a week after the House Transportation Committee made public a November 2018 Federal Aviation Administration report concluded that the MAX would likely crash once every two to three years. The FAA report was conducted in response to the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia, which killed 189 people. The deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed all 157 on board, came months after the FAA concluded its damning report on the Boeing plane.
Boeing has been producing about 40 737 MAX jetliners each month and currently has a collection of about 400 of the planes. But this series has not been able to obtain approval to fly from the FAA and other regulators around the world, and authorities don’t expect any official decisions to come before February.
Flaws surrounding 737 MAX’s stall-prevention system, MCAS, which may have played a role in the tragic accidents, led governments around the world to ground the Boeing plane.
“We know that the process of approving the 737 MAX’s return to service, and of determining appropriate training requirements, must be extraordinarily thorough and robust, to ensure that our regulators, customers, and the flying public have confidence in the 737 MAX updates,” Boeing said in a press statement shared with Gizmodo. “It is our duty to ensure that every requirement is fulfilled, and every question from our regulators answered.”
The New York Times called the decision “one of the most consequential decisions in the manufacturer’s more than 100-year history” as Boeing is the nation’s “largest manufacturing exporter and the largest component of the Dow Jones industrial average,” adding that the move to cease production of its most prominent airplane could “send shocks through the American economy.”
In October, American Airlines said it expected to begin flying the 737 MAX again in January 2020.
Boeing did not address Gizmodo’s request for comment on the expected length of the production suspension.