Boeing tells FAA it does not believe 737 MAX wiring should be moved: sources

SEATTLE/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) told the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration it does not believe it needs to separate wiring bundles on its grounded 737 MAX jetliner that regulators have warned could short circuit and cause catastrophic consequences, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

An employee walks past a Boeing 737 Max aircraft seen parked at the Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Washington, U.S. January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

The FAA confirmed Friday it had received a proposal from the planemaker regarding the wiring issue.

The FAA will “rigorously evaluate Boeing’s proposal to address a recently discovered wiring issue with the 737 MAX. The manufacturer must demonstrate compliance with all certification standards,” the agency said in a statement.

The U.S. planemaker and FAA first said in early January they were reviewing a wiring issue that could potentially cause a short circuit on the 737 MAX.

A Boeing spokesman referred all questions to the FAA, saying the agency would make the final decision and that the company is answering questions from the FAA.

Boeing’s 737 MAX was grounded worldwide last March after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people within five months.

Boeing has spent months updating software linked to both crashes, but fresh issues have surfaced, complicating regulators’ efforts to re-approve the plane.

There are more than a dozen different locations on the 737 MAX where wiring bundles may be too close together, potentially posing a hazard of a short circuit that could cause catastrophic impacts, one of the people with knowledge of the matter said.

If the bundles pose a potential hazard, regulations would typically require separating the bundles or adding a physical barrier. Most of the locations are under the cockpit in an electrical bay.

Boeing has noted in talks with the FAA that the same wiring bundles are in the 737 NG, which has been in service since 1997 and logged 205 million flight hours without any wiring issues.

New safety rules on wiring were adopted in the aftermath of the 1998 Swiss Air 111 crash.

A company official told Reuters last month Boeing had been working on a design that would separate the wiring bundles, if necessary. Moving the bundles could pose further delays to the return of the MAX, however, and Reuters reported Thursday that a key certification test flight was not expected until April or later.

Three U.S. airlines this week pushed back the resumption of MAX flights from June until August or later.

It is unclear whether the European Union Aviation Safety Agency will demand that the 737 MAX wiring bundles be separated. A spokeswoman for the agency on Thursday said regulators were “waiting for additional information from Boeing.”

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown

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