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Boeing may be tackling 737 Max’s PR problem with a new name

A Boeing 737 MAX. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times/TNS)
August 21, 2020

An announcement that Boeing had sold new jetliners was getting notice for another reason: a possible name change of the aerospace giant’s most troubled plane.

Boeing said Wednesday that a Polish airline, Enter Air, had ordered a pair of its 737 Max jetliners, which have been grounded ever since they figured in two crashes.

Only the announcement didn’t identify the planes as Maxes. Instead, they were called the 737-8, perhaps signalling that Boeing may want a new name to combat the plane’s image problems.

Boeing officials didn’t say a name change is official, noting that the Max name appeared elsewhere in the same announcement. The Max name showed up in referring to Enter Air’s fleet — with the two new planes, it will have 10 of the Max aircraft. Testing is going on around changes in the plane to get it flying again.

But aviation observers certainly noticed.

“The aircraft family is still the Max, but Boeing calls the model the 737-8 for the first time in a deal announcement,” Jon Ostrower of The Air Current, an online aviation news operation that closely watches the airline industry, noted in a morning tweet.

While the workhorse 737 has gone through successive generations since the 1960s, it was the latest one, the Max, that Boeing plunged into crisis.

The 737 Max was grounded after successive accidents. First, a Lion Air flight went down off Indonesia in October 2018. Then in March, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed outside in Addis Ababa. All aboard were killed in both crashes, a total of 346 passengers and crew.

The investigations into both crashes focused on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, which is software added to Max to make the model fly like previous versions of the 737. Cockpit recorders showed pilots in both the Ethiopian and Lion Air jetliners struggled to keep their planes in the air as the MCAS, which automatically switches on in certain situations, overrode their actions.

The Max fleet has been grounded worldwide while Boeing fixed the problem, with a solution now under review by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Boeing, meanwhile, has had to figure out how to deal with the marketing side of the problem, one that a name change might help.

Boeing plans to use the name in different variants of the Max, whether it is the 737-7 through 737-10. It’s not to be confused with the previous generation of the 737, which used a different number system to designate difference sizes the type, like the 737-800.

In any case, Boeing said it is pleased with Enter Air’s order for the two planes, plus options on two others.

“Their order for additional 737-8s underscores their confidence in the airplane and the men and women of Boeing,” said Ihssane Mounir, a Boeing senior vice president.


© 2020 USA Today