In another blow to its business, the Ryanair Group now expects to receive only 10 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in 2020 due to a newly discovered design issue with the over-wing exit on the airline’s modified MAX 8 model, the 737-8-200. Reports indicate that the carrier now expects the planes no earlier than in May of 2020.
The Irish low-cost carrier has 135 MAX aircraft on firm order from Boeing since 2014. Initially, it was expecting the first deliveries to arrive in the second quarter of 2019, but the schedule has been postponed several times since the worldwide grounding of the MAX family, enforced in March 2019.
In its 2019 half year results, the airline stated it expected the deliveries of the MAX in March-April 2020 at the earliest, but admitted that “the risk of further delay is rising”. At the time, Ryanair was prepared to induct 20 MAX planes (from the previous, gradually reduced, figure of 58) before the peak 2020 summer season.
That was at the beginning of the month, November 4, 2019. Now, several media reports, citing a memo sent to Ryanair’s pilots by Chief Operating Officer Neal MacMahon, say that the Group has revised its fleet plans once more. The airline currently expects only 10 MAX aircraft to arrive in time for the 2020 summer season, with deliveries beginning in May of that year at best, subject to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) approval.
Even though the extent of MAX delivery delays is uncertain in itself, as the type still awaits certification of the MAX flight control software updates to be able to resume deliveries to airlines, an unspecified “design issue” related to the second over-wing exit has reportedly prompted this Ryanair-specific delay. A second emergency exit along the aft fuselage and behind the plane’s wings is a special feature of the 737-8-200, ordered by the low-cost giant. The new set of doors was necessary to increase the certified seating capacity on the modified MAX 8.
Earlier this year, in July 2019, news emerged of Ryanair having rebranded its Boeing 737 MAX 8, dropping the “MAX” name from the high-capacity version of the model, launched specifically for the airline. While it has not been used commercially before, the specific configuration of the aircraft is officially referenced by the EASA (and by Boeing itself) as the 737-8-200. The rest of the MAX family is simply designated as the 737-7 and 737-9.
Because of its high-density, the up to 210-seat 737-8-200 variant requires a separate type certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and its European counterpart, which should, nevertheless, remain tied to the certification schedule of the 737 MAX 8. For comparison, the larger 737 MAX 9 variant seats a maximum 220 passengers and the MAX 10 can carry up to 230.