Caught in the 737 MAX crisis, Boeing posted no aircraft orders in January 2020. The underachievement comes for the first time since January 1962. Its competitor Airbus recorded 273 orders for commercial aircraft over the same period.
This situation is precarious, as the manufacturer reported its first annual loss in 23 years for the year 2019, and had to pay billions of dollars to compensate the airlines affected by the global grounding of the 737 MAX. The bill for the whole crisis already surpasses $18.4 billion.
The manufacturer delivered only 13 aircraft during the month, down from 46 aircraft in January 2019. The deliveries include ten commercial airliners; two 737s for China Eastern Airlines (CIAH) (CEA) , two 777s for Turkish Airlines and United Airlines, and six 787 Dreamliners for Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, and the leasing companies CALC and Avolon; and three military aircraft; a 737 P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and two KC-767 aerial refuelers for the US Navy.
In the meantime, Airbus delivered 31 aircraft.
What happened to Boeing in 1962?
The last time the order book was so empty was in January 1962. At the time, Boeing’s workhorse was its military sector, but the year became pivotal for the company and its priorities.
In 1962, the manufacturer was competing in two major tenders with the United States Air Force: the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program, and the Cargo Experimental-Heavy Logistics System (CX-HLS) program.
However, Boeing lost both of them. The former program was awarded to General Dynamics in 1962 and consequently gave birth to the F-111 Aardvark. The latter was won by Lockheed in 1965, which would go on to develop the C-5 Galaxy.
Following the two consecutive blows, Boeing refocused its workforce on commercial aviation instead. In the same decade would come out the Boeing 727 and the Boeing 737, two best-sellers among airliners.
The end of the tunnel for MAX woes?
In the present day, encouraging news hint that the fate of the Boeing 737 MAX, grounded since March 2019 following two crashes that killed 346 people, could soon be sorted.
During Singapore Airshow, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson said the certification flight could take place in the coming weeks, after a few remaining issues are resolved. “The certification flight is the next major milestone and once completed, I think we will have a little more clarity on the rest of the process,” said Dickson without providing a schedule for the flight.
Boeing is already preparing for the flight to be carried out by the FAA pilots. Since February 7, 2020, a Boeing 737 MAX 7 has been seen hopping on and off in several U.S. airports as a testbed for the MCAS software.