Boeing will temporarily halt production of the 737 Max starting in January, after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said its review of the jets would continue into 2020.
The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March this year after it was involved in two fatal crashes that claimed 346 lives. In October 2018, a Lion Air flight plunged into the Java Sea, killing all passengers and crew members on board. Five months later, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, also killing all on board.
“We believe this decision is least disruptive to maintaining long-term production system and supply chain health. This decision is driven by a number of factors, including the extension of certification into 2020, the uncertainty about the timing and conditions of return to service and global training approvals, and the importance of ensuring that we can prioritise the delivery of stored aircraft,” Boeing said in a press release.
The plane manufacturer also said in its statement that it would not lay off any workers associated with the aircraft. It added that affected employees will continue 737-related work, or they will temporarily be assigned to other teams in Puget Sound.
The announcement from Boeing to suspend production of the narrow-body planes came after a two-day board meeting in Chicago last week, after the FAA confirmed that it would not approve the plane’s return to service before 2020, according to Reuters.
FAA chief Steve Dickson listed a series of steps that Boeing still must take before the 737 Max approval at a hearing before US lawmakers last week. Approval is not likely until at least February and could be delayed until March, US officials told Reuters.
Boeing, which had hoped its 737 Max would be back in service in the US by the end of this year, had continued to build new 737 Max planes despite the grounding. It currently has approximately 400 of the airplanes in storage.
At the Dubai Airshow this year, the company announced an order for 20 of the jets from an unidentified airline. This includes ten of the 737 Max 7 version of the plane, and ten of the larger Max 10 jet, according to CNN.
In October, Boeing outlined in a press release changes it had made to the B737 Max’s MCAS system, which can automatically push the aircraft’s nose down and has been blamed for the two crashes that claimed the lives of 346 people. Boeing said the system has been “updated to provide additional layers of protection”.
Last month, the company quietly unveiled the B737 Max 10, the newest and largest variant of its Max family of aircraft.