Boeing will return to the drawing board after the planemaker decided to withdraw a safety exemption request for the smallest member of the 737 MAX family, the 737-7.
The Boeing 737-7, unlike the 737-8 and 737-9, is still going through the certification process that once approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will allow the aircraft to carry passengers.
The safety exemption relates to an anti-icing system that could lead to overheating of the inlet cowl.
One of the issues as set out by Senator Tammy Duckworth in the United States (US) is that the anti-ice system can overheat and cause the engine nacelle to “break apart and fall off”.
“This could generate fuselage-penetrating debris, which could endanger passengers in window seats behind the wing,” the Senator said.
Boeing had hoped that the temporary safety exemption would quicken the process for the 737 MAX 7 to be certified while it prepared a permanent fix ready for roll-out in May 2026.
After the request was made the FAA agreed an interim solution that could be used on the 737-8 and 737-9 models which also faced the same anti-icing system issue.
“We have informed the FAA that we are withdrawing our request for a time-limited exemption relating to the engine inlet deicing system on the 737-7. While we are confident that the proposed time-limited exemption for that system follows established FAA processes to ensure safe operation, we will instead incorporate an engineering solution that will be completed during the certification process,” Boeing said in a statement on January 29, 2024.
Pressure on Boeing and its quality procedures has intensified in recent weeks following an incident in which a plug door separated from an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 shortly after takeoff.
In light of the incident the FAA has increased oversight of Boeing’s procedures, with many now questioning the planemaker’s reputation for safety.
A whistleblower, who claimed to work for Boeing, said it was likely that four bolts designed to hold the plug door in place were not installed when the incident occurred.
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