Deliveries of the Boeing 737 Max will resume before the end of the year, the planemaker’s boss has said.
Dave Calhoun, president and chief executive of Boeing, was speaking at the presentation of the firm’s third-quarter results – which took place on the eve of the first fatal crash involving the 737 Max.
On 29 October 2018, a single faulty sensor triggered an anti-stall system that caused Lion Air flight 610 to crash shortly after take off from Jakarta. All 189 passengers and crew died.
Less than six months later, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was lost, along with 157 lives, in similar circumstances.
The aircraft type was grounded worldwide shortly afterwards. But following a rigorous redesign and certification process, it is likely to be flying passengers again in the US before the end of the year.
Mr Calhoun said that Boeing has 450 of the 737 Max jets in storage. But even if deliveries resume this year, it expects airline customers to take only about half of the stored jets by the end of 2021. Many carriers are less than keen to receive planes as they struggle with the slump caused by Covid-19.
Ryanair is the biggest European customer for the plane, with 135 firm orders and 75 options. Eddie Wilson, chief executive of the airlines’s main operating division, expects the airline to be using the Boeing 737 Max in scheduled service from early next year.
Mr Calhoun conceded that Boeing had lost market share to its rival, Airbus, because of the grounding.
“When you don’t produce an airplane for a year, and the other guy does, by definition you take a big hit with respect to share,” he said.
He conceded that the Airbus A321 “has advantages for certain routes without any doubt,” but added: “Our airplane, with respect to efficiency and environmental performance and seat cost gives us an advantage.
"I’m not worried about the 737 family competing against the A320 family.”
The Boeing boss predicted that at some time in 2021, assuming a vaccine for coronavirus is found, there will be something akin to “a run on the bank” among airlines desperate to obtain new aircraft.
Boeing’s revenue compared with the same quarter in 2019 fell from almost $20bn (£15.4bn) to just over $14bn (£10.8bn), with a $1.26bn (£970m) profit turning into a $400m (£309m) loss.
So far this year it has delivered fewer than 100 planes, compared with more than 300 in the first nine months of 2019.
The company expects to have 130,000 employees by the end of 2022 – 31,000 fewer than at the start of 2020.