- Boeing has closed its first 737 Max sale of 2020, but something was notably different in its announcement: the airplane’s name.
- While Boeing still referred to the aircraft as belonging to the “737 Max” family, it described the specific variant as the “737-8.” Until now, Boeing has only described the plane as the “737 Max 8.”
- It was not immediately clear whether Boeing planned to rebrand the plane — the original wording is still on Boeing’s website.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Boeing announced on Wednesday that it had received a new order for up to four of its 737 Max series aircraft, the first sale for the troubled family of planes in 2020.
Amid the rare spot of good news for the planemaker, which is trying to revive the jet while fending off coronavirus-induced losses, one unexpected change stood out: the name of the plane.
For the first time, Boeing dropped the “Max” branding when referring to the specific plane variant, simply calling it the “737-8,” rather than the “737 Max 8,” the name that the planemaker has used since the aircraft entered service in 2017. It described the plane as belonging to the “737 Max” family of aircraft, differentiating it from the 737-800, which belongs to the 737 Next Generation family, the Max’s predecessor.
It’s not clear if Boeing is officially changing the plane’s name. “We’re naming the variant as there are five different types overall (-7, -8 (including denser MAX 200), -9, -10,” spokesperson Peter P. Pedraza told Business Insider, noting that Boeing did use the Max name in the press release. The Max 8 naming convention remains on Boeing’s website.
Polish charter airline Enter Air will purchase two of the newly named 737-8 aircraft, with the option to purchase two more. Enter Air’s current fleet includes 22 older 737 NGs, and two Max aircraft.
The sale announcement and possible renaming come as Boeing works to get the Max family certified to reenter passenger service. The Max has been grounded worldwide since March, 2019, following the second of two fatal crashes that killed a combined 346 people.
“Despite the current crisis, it is important to think about the future,” Enter Air general director Grzegorz Polaniecki said in a press release, referring to the cratering of travel demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Following the rigorous checks that the 737 Max is undergoing, I am convinced it will be the best aircraft in the world for many years to come.”
A rebranding of the troubled jet wouldn’t be too surprising. Last year, a Boeing exec reportedly said the company was open to the idea. Airlines have been working on plans for making passengers comfortable with the idea of flying aboard the troubled plane. President Donald Trump chimed in last April, tweeting that Boeing should change the name. “I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name,” he wrote.
The 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019
The first 737 Max deadly crash, Lion Air Flight 610, plunged into the Java Sea off Indonesia in October 2018 just 12 minutes after takeoff, during which the pilots struggled to control the plane. The crash killed 189 people.
Although questions immediately emerged about a new flight-control system on the 737 Max — the latest iteration of Boeing’s 55-year-old workhorse — the plane largely remained in service, with an emergency Airworthiness Directive issued by Boeing and the FAA warning pilots about possible control issues.
The second crash occurred in March 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plunged to Earth six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, killing all 157 on board. Within days, the plane type was grounded worldwide.
Investigators found that both crashes were linked to the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system, or MCAS, which was designed to compensate for the 737 Max having larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, MCAS could automatically point the nose down to negate the effect of the engine size.
But the system could be activated by a faulty reading from a single angle-of-attack sensor, without any redundancies or backups. In both crashes, the sensors are thought to have failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.
Although the grounding was initially expected to last a few weeks, Boeing and the FAA found additional safety hazards, requiring Boeing to redesign the jet’s entire flight computer rather than just the MCAS software.
Numerous federal investigations are underway into the design of the jet, part of an effort to determine how it was allowed to be certified in the first place and whether there was criminal negligence behind the design.
Boeing completed certification test flights with FAA inspectors in late-June, and the FAA issued a list of proposed changes to the jet earlier this month. Following a 45-day public comment period, the plane could be cleared to fly as soon as late-September.
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