Boeing Withdraws Request for a 737-7 Safety Exemption

Boeing has withdrawn its request for an exemption from several important safety requirements to get the smallest variant of the 737 MAX series authorized for passenger travel.



January 30, 2024

DALLAS — On Monday, Boeing withdrew its request for an exemption from several important safety requirements to get the smallest variant of the 737 MAX series authorized for passenger travel.

Boeing released a statement saying that it had notified the FAA that it was withdrawing its request for a time-limited exemption relating to the engine inlet de-icing system on the 737-7. It added that it would find an engineering solution it would incorporate during the certification process.

This means that Boeing must come up with a solution for the problematic design and get it certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before it can launch the 737-7 into passenger service.

The now-belated launch of the type will reduce Boeing's anticipated cash flow for the year, though it's unclear by how much. However, if we see the chart below, the Boeing 737-8 dominates the MAX backlog. Included in the tally is the MAX 8 200, which incorporates an extra pair of exits to enable higher-density seating of up to 202 passengers.

The Boeing 737-8 overshadows the -9 by more than an order of magnitude and the -7 by 3%. Southwest Airlines (WN) has an order for 302 Boeing 737-7.

Boeing's Request for Safety Exemption

Regarding Boeing's requests that the Boeing 737-7's engine anti-ice system be exempted from certain safety standards it failed to meet, the FAA acknowledged a potentially catastrophic flaw in this system, with Boeing arguing that the chances of such a failure were "extremely improbable." The company believes that providing pilots with a warning to turn off the system in certain circumstances is enough to ensure safety.

Allied Pilots Association (APA) spokesperson Capt. Dennis Tajer recently said that the FAA had sent out a bulletin stating that if pilots leave the engine anti-ice for more than five minutes in clear air, "the engine can come undone, the cowling could break away from the airplane," and pieces can penetrate the cabin and cause an off-airport landing.

This means that the Boeing 737 MAX has no other alert system to warn flight crews about the issue, and they are flying on aircraft that depend on the memory of two pilots who do not need to remember this on other aircraft to keep them from having such incidents happen. "Boeing is failing right now to produce a reliable, and most importantly, safe, product on a consistent basis," Tajer said.

Boeing requested the exemption through June 2026 to give it time to come up with a permanent design fix for the system. Tajer says that it is unacceptable for Boeing to take two years to fix the issue. On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a pilot and chair of the Aviation Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, urged the FAA to reject Boeing’s request.

Senator Duckworth wrote a letter to Whitaker, stating that the “FAA should deny Boeing’s petition for an exemption and press the company to accelerate the implementation of a mechanical fix to its faulty anti-ice system," echoing Tajer when he says, "The FAA has just got to stop this madness."

According to the senator, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun informed her on Monday that the manufacturer and WN had reached a consensus over the jet's delivery delay.

Featured image: Southwest Airlines N463WN, Boeing 737-7H4. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways