The Supply Chain Matters blog highlights indications this week of another significant setback impacting the ongoing global grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft.
There has been another development concerning the continued grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX global fleet, one that looks to add even more delay to any return to operational service for this commercial aircraft.
While conducting simulator testing, U.S. FAA test pilots discovered a new issue related to the aircraft’s flight control system. According to reports, the scenario that was tested is one that can only be tested in a simulator, rather in the aircraft being flown by test pilots. The safety agency has indicated that this additional software issue must be addressed, in addition to the troubled MCAS system, in order for the aircraft to be recertified for operational service.
According to a report from Aviation Daily, (Free email sign-up required ) the test pilots were simulating a runaway stabilizer condition when they discovered that the required response procedures took too long for the pilots to perform without significant consequences. That issue has been traced to how a specific flight control computer chip is processing data, according to a cited source. What was not clear was whether the corrected action involves a further software modification or a replacement computer chip. The former is the obvious preferable approach for Boeing while the latter adds a whole lot of uncertainty and potential added delay.
A separate statement from Boeing indicates the discovered problem can be addressed with an added software fix. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, FAA officials remain unconvinced that such a software-fix only is feasible. In either case, the current feeling is that addressing this new issue will require an additional 3-4 months of added time
With this new development, the scenario for the 737 MAX return to service now looks to be later this year with this added software fix, perhaps later if the problem turns out to be the processing speed of the suspect flight computer.
The fallout, from various perspectives, is even more concerning.
Manufacturing, Supply Network and Service Management
From the manufacturing, supply network and service management perspective, global grounded 737 MAX aircraft from operating airline operational fleets, and undeliverable from Boeing’s manufacturing facility continue to take-up parking areas. The grounding is now surpassing four months with the new likelihood of an additional six months. This is unprecedented for the industry and its global supply chain ecosystems.
This week, Twitter featured images of three 737 MAX aircraft, parked nose-to tail, occupying one of the executive parking lots near the company’s Seattle manufacturing complex. One would surmise that such a visual each morning and evening provides a stark reminder to Boeing executives to the magnitude of the growing corporate crisis.
For the 737 manufacturing and supply network ecosystem, this latest development likely provides added concerns as to the real possibility of a either another cutback in monthly production or temporary suspension because of the growing inventory and logistics challenges.
Not only will the global operational fleet have to be retrofitted with new software and other fixes, but the 737 MAX aircraft occupying every available piece of Boeing real estate will have to retrofitted as well.
The financial impacts are growing, and very soon, suppliers will likely be feeling additional financial and operational impacts.
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