Business & Environment


January 30, 2023

Boeing’s 737 Max Congestion Just Won’t Go Away

Boeing’s 737 Max Congestion Just Won’t Go Away

Despite lifting the flight ban months ago, the U.S. aircraft manufacturer is having trouble getting rid of the problem plane. This is evidenced by the latest satellite images.

“Economy from above” is a collaboration between WirtschaftsWoche and LiveEO. This is a translation of the original article written in German by “Thomas Stölzel“. Access the original article here.

It’s been ten months since the U.S. lifted the flight ban on the problematic Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Europe followed suit shortly afterwards in January of this year. And other countries such as India, Singapore, and Canada have now reopened their airspace to this type of aircraft.

However, recent LiveEO satellite images of Boeing’s aircraft parking lots now show that the U.S. plane maker is struggling to get the aircraft into scheduled service.

The remote Moses Lake airport in Washington state had become a massive warehouse for newly produced Boeing 737 Maxs after the crash of a brand-new Indonesian Lion Air plane and, a few months later, that of an Ethiopian Airlines plane. Boeing was not allowed to deliver the aircraft after a worldwide ban on flights for the model. It was not until May of this year that the company was able to start again.

No items found.

However, an analysis of satellite photos by WirtschaftsWoche shows that the company has not yet succeeded in clearing the delivery backlog. According to the photos, there was hardly a plane at Moses Lake’s huge airport in June 2019. As of Feb. 29, 2020, there were around 235 aircraft, virtually all brand-new Boeing 737 Maxes. In February this year, there were still about 210 aircraft stored there, and a few days ago, on September 11, there were even around 215. By list price, these alone are aircraft worth more than $20 billion.

No items found.

Boeing had hired hundreds of technicians at Moses Lake and brought retirees out of retirement to keep the parked planes fit as well as move them now and then. In addition, the software of the planes was updated and there were changes to the wiring harness designs.

Moses Lake is by far the largest 737 Max parking facility. At other storage facilities, such as Boeing Field near Seattle and San Antonio, Texas, the number of parked aircraft has recently declined slightly. Only a few 737 Maxs are still to be found at the famous aircraft graveyard in Victorville, California, where Volkswagen once-mothballed its cheat diesels. At times, a few dozen 737 Maxs were parked here as well. Nevertheless, this hardly suggests a relaxation, since many of the aircraft had already been delivered to Victorville before the ban and were mothballed there by the airline Southwest.

No items found.

In the skies above Europe, America, and South America, at least, a number of Boeing 737 Max are actually on the move again today. This is shown by data from the flight monitoring portal Flightradar24. The largest number of aircraft belongs to the vacation carrier Tui, which has ordered a total of 72 aircraft of this type.

By far one of the biggest customers, however, is the low-cost airline Ryanair. The Irish company alone has ordered 210 aircraft of this type. In March, more than a dozen Ryanair aircraft were standing around in Moses Lake, as high-resolution satellite images show. Then in June, Boeing delivered the first plane to Ryanair, now followed by others in September. Ryanair recently announced plans to hire 2,000 pilots for its new 737-Max fleet.