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Dozens of grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019.
Reuters/Lindsey Wasson
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CANCELED

Another airline has taken the Boeing 737 Max off its schedule until 2020

Tripti Lahiri
By Tripti Lahiri

Asia bureau chief

Icelandair is the latest airline to take the troubled 737 Max aircraft off its schedule until 2020, even as Boeing works toward a return of the aircraft this year.

“Icelandair has updated its flight schedule until the end of December 2019 as it does not anticipate the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to be in operation during that time. The changes also reflect other market developments,” the carrier said Aug. 16. According to Boeing data, the carrier has taken delivery of three of the jets.

The 737 Max was grounded in March after two of the aircraft, introduced into fleets in 2017, crashed within six months. Last October, a Lion Air flight plunged into the sea soon after take off in Indonesia, killing all 189 on board. In March, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, killing 157. Both crashes were linked to a new flight control system that pushes the plane’s nose sharply down when it activates, a feature pilots were unaware of until after the Lion Air disaster.

Icelandair, which estimated its losses at $140 million if the grounding lasts until the end of October, is in talks with Boeing regarding compensation.

Last month, US carrier Southwest Airlines, and Air Canada said they would not fly the 737 Max until early next year. Other major users of the 737 Max, such as American Airlines, have only removed the aircraft from schedules until early November.

Boeing has been working on a software fix for the 737 Max, to prevent the flight control system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), from activating as easily. The process has been delayed as the US Federal Aviation Administration has raised other concerns, including seeking an additional software fix related to emergency procedures to be use if MCAS misfires.

The aviation giant said last month it is hoping to clear regulatory hurdles to the plane’s return by October, and some carriers are planning accordingly. The Sunday Times reported (paywall) that 737 Max flights are being sold for November and December, and cited one British passenger as saying American Airlines had informed him his December flight to the Caribbean would be operated on a Max aircraft.

The Max has now been grounded by the FAA for five months, the longest stretch for a US aircraft. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was grounded for fixes for four months in 2013, while McDonnell Douglas’s DC-10 was grounded for two months after a fatal accident. In both cases, unlike the Max, the groundings related to hardware issues.

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