Key Points:

  • Boeing has requested the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to exempt the 737 Max 7 from specific certification rules due to engine anti-ice system overheating concerns.

  • The exemption, sought through May 2026, aims to allow Boeing to use the same inlet design and engine anti-ice system as the current 737 Max models, while working on a long-term solution.

  • The Max 7’s certification timeline remains uncertain, and Boeing continues to address the overheating problem, which was earlier identified in the Max 8 and Max 9 models.

Boeing’s Request for FAA Exemptions: Addressing the Overheating Problem

ARLINGTON — Boeing has approached the FAA to grant temporary exemptions for its 737 Max 7 model from several certification rules. This move is primarily due to the overheating issue identified in the engine anti-ice system. The company announced its intention to begin deliveries of the Max 7 next year and submitted its exemption request in November. The FAA disclosed this information in a notice on December 4.

The aerospace giant is working on a long-term solution to this problem, which has already been acknowledged in the Max 8 and Max 9 models. Earlier in the year, the FAA had issued an airworthiness directive to manage this risk, mandating certain operational restrictions and guidelines for the use of the anti-ice system in these models.

Certification and Regulatory Scrutiny

Boeing's request for exemptions includes a temporary reprieve from rules involving extended overwater operations and the reliability of certain critical systems. Furthermore, the company seeks a waiver from requirements that dictate accounting for environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity in material durability. This request is part of Boeing’s ongoing efforts to attain certification for the Max 7.

The exemptions, if granted, would be valid through May 2026. Boeing plans to permanently resolve the issue by developing and certifying design changes. These changes aim to prevent overheating during certain operational conditions that could lead to engine inlet inner barrel failure. The FAA has yet to respond to Boeing’s request or comment on the matter.

Historical Context and Regulatory Precedents

Boeing’s Max 7 and Max 10 models have experienced delays in certification, partly due to increased regulatory scrutiny following the grounding of the Max 8 and 9 variants several years ago. The company had previously anticipated that the Max 7 would receive certification in 2023, with first deliveries in 2024. However, the timeline for the Max 7's entry into service remains uncertain, with Southwest Airlines, the model's primary customer, not expecting to operate it until late 2024.

This is not the first time Boeing has sought exemptions during a certification program. Earlier in the year, the FAA granted the Max 7 an exemption concerning lightning and radiation protection rules. It remains unclear if Boeing will request similar exemptions for the 737 Max 10.

Implications and Developments in the Aerospace Industry

The overheating issue, first highlighted in August, arises when the engine anti-ice system is used in specific atmospheric conditions, potentially leading to engine component failure. The FAA's directive requires updates to flight manuals, prohibiting the use of the anti-ice system except under actual icing conditions.

It is important to note that GE Aerospace, co-owner of CFM International which produces the Leap-1B engines used in the 737 Max, stated in August that the engines themselves are not the source of the problem. This distinction is crucial in understanding the nature of the issue and Boeing's approach to resolving it.