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Boeing plans to increase 737 MAX production rates 'very soon'

Boeing indicated that it's planning to increase the production rates for its 737 MAX airliners in the near future as its new MAX 7 and MAX 10 models near FAA certification.

Boeing is planning to ramp up production rates for its best-selling 737 MAX airliners "very soon," the company’s head of commercial operations said Thursday.

Stan Deal, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said that 737 MAX production will be increased above its current level of 31 jets per month. He also said the company is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to wrap up the final certification of the new 737 MAX 7 model.

"We’ve got a handful – less than a handful – left to go to the FAA," Deal said. "We’re working a few issues around those submittals. I want them to be perfect, I want the FAA to feel comfortable and then give them time to go review."

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Boeing expects that its MAX 7 will complete FAA certification later this year and that the first delivery of the new aircraft will occur this year as well.

FAA certification is required before the jets can enter service with the airlines that acquire them, and Boeing had initially thought the MAX 7 and MAX 10 models would complete certification by the end of December 2022 as required by a 2020 law that would have entailed an extensive upgrade to the 737 MAX’s crew alerting system.

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However, the certification took longer than anticipated, and as the deadline approached, Congress approved a waiver to prevent Boeing from having to cancel the new airliners. The waiver requires that MAX 7 jets be retrofitted with two fixes designed to improve the flight control system.

The two safety improvements include: use of a third sensor to measure the jet's angle of attack to negate false readings from a single sensor; a switch that allows pilots to turn off an erroneous stall warning. Both are intended to mitigate issues that arose during the fatal crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and made it harder for pilots to take the proper corrective action.

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The new MAX 10 jets won’t have to be retrofitted like the new MAX 7 and the existing fleet of MAX 8 and MAX 9 jets because they’re being designed and flight tested with the updated system incorporated. FAA certification of the MAX 10 jets is expected to occur later this year.

Over the long term, Boeing is planning to increase the production rate for MAX jets to 50 per month by the end of 2026.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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