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Boeing has withdrawn a request for a safety exemption for a new version of its 737 Max jet that would have expedited its approval, raising questions over when the plane will enter service.
The US plane maker has come under mounting pressure to withdraw the request for the 737 Max 7 following the blowout of a section of the fuselage on an Alaska Airlines aircraft earlier this month.
The incident, which involved the Max 9 model, has dealt a heavy blow to Boeing’s reputation and raised numerous safety and quality control questions at the company.
Last week Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth urged the Federal Aviation Administration, the aviation safety regulator, not to certify the Max 7, based on concerns that the exemption request, if granted, would endanger passengers.
The withdrawal throws into doubt when the Max 7, the smallest model, will be certified by the FAA as Boeing works on a permanent design change. Investors had expected the Max 7 to be certified in the first half of this year before being delivered to its first customer, Southwest Airlines. The withdrawal could also affect the certification timetable for the larger Max 10.
Boeing asked for the temporary exemption last year after discovering a flaw in the aircraft’s engine anti-ice system. The FAA had agreed an interim solution while Boeing worked on a permanent fix, which it had promised would be ready to start rolling out by the end of May 2026.
The two Max models already flying, the Max 8 and the Max 9, have since introduced the interim solution, which involves pilots being urged to turn off the system once icy conditions have gone to prevent overheating.
Boeing said late on Monday that it was withdrawing its request to the FAA. It said that while it was “confident that the proposed time-limited exemption for that system follows established FAA processes to ensure safe operation, we will instead incorporate an engineering solution that will be completed during the certification process”.
Before the Alaska incident the company, which reports its results for the full year on Wednesday, had been expected to lay out new financial and delivery targets for this year. The focus will now be on how it can contain the fallout from the crisis. Boeing shares have fallen 20 per cent since the start of the year.
A preliminary report into the Alaska incident by the National Transportation Safety Board is also expected to be published this week.