(Dallas) Boeing is asking U.S. federal authorities to exempt a new model of its 737 Max jetliner from a safety standard designed to prevent part of the engine housing from overheating and breaking during flight.
Federal officials said last year that Boeing was working to address the hazard on current Max planes. Meanwhile, they asked pilots to limit the use of an anti-icing system in certain conditions to avoid damage that “could result in loss of control of the aircraft.”
With no solution ready, Boeing last month asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for an exemption from safety standards related to engine air intakes and anti-icing systems until May 2026. Boeing needs the exemption to begin delivering the new, smaller Max 7 to airlines.
Boeing said Friday it was “developing a long-term solution” that would be subject to review by the FAA.
But some observers have sounded the alarm that safety relies on pilots remembering when to limit the use of the anti-icing system.
“You get our attention when you say people could be killed,” Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for American Airlines pilots, told the Seattle Times, which reported the exemption request Friday. We are not interested in exemptions and accommodations that depend on human memory […] there simply has to be a better way. »
Pilots flying the Max 8 and Max 9 have been warned to limit use of the anti-icing system to five minutes when flying in dry weather. Otherwise, according to the FAA, the air intakes around the engines could become too hot and parts of the casing could come loose and hit the plane, possibly shattering windows and causing rapid decompression.
That’s what happened when an engine fan blade broke on an older 737 during a Southwest Airlines flight in 2018. A piece of the loose engine housing hit and broke a window, and a woman sitting next to the window was killed.
The overheating issue only affects the Max model, whose motor inlets are made of carbon composite materials rather than metal.
A Boeing spokeswoman said in a statement that at the company’s request, pilots of the new Max 7 would follow the same instructions regarding anti-icing systems as pilots of current Max planes.
“We are developing a long-term solution that will undergo extensive testing and review by the FAA before being introduced into the 737 MAX fleet,” the spokeswoman said.
The FAA said last year that it had not received any reports of an overheating problem occurring on Max flights, but that it had warned pilots because of the severity of the risk, discovered during ‘a test flight.
The 737 Max entered service in May 2017. Two of the planes crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people. All Max planes were grounded worldwide for nearly two years while the company made changes to an automated flight control system that pushed the plane’s nose down based on readings from faulty sensors.
More recently, Max deliveries were halted to correct manufacturing defects, and last month the company asked airlines to inspect planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder control system .