Boeing lands new 737 MAX order, subtly drops ‘MAX’ name for individual planes

Aug 19, 2020

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Boeing has made a subtle change to the nomenclature of its 737 MAX family, dropping the now-tarnished MAX moniker from the names of the individual planes in its latest public order announcement.

The Chicago-based planemaker publicly referred to the MAX 8 as the “737-8” in a statement on a commitment for two jets from Poland’s Enter Air on Wednesday. The 737-8 nomenclature is the standard used internally by the company for the individual variants.

The change, while minor, appears to be a public step by Boeing towards reducing the prevalence of the 737 MAX name. The jets have been grounded since March 2019 after two deadly crashes that took the lives of 346 people.

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The updated naming system is similar to that for Boeing’s previous 737 line. Collectively, the planes in that family are referred to as 737 Next Generation, or NG, jets. Individually, however, the variants are delineated by numbers that include the 737-600s, -700s, -800s and -900s. That’s typically how passengers see the plane types show up in airline reservations systems, such as the “737-800,” for example. 

Now, It appears Boeing is extending this concept to the MAX, referring to the family as the 737 MAX and individually as either the 737-8 or 737-10.

A Boeing spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the MAX naming changes.

The name change alone is unlikely to be enough to regain full traveler confidence in the jets. Trust in the MAX will likely return gradually once the plane is back in the air and demonstrating that it can carry flyers safely, a recent analysis by The Air Current found.

History suggests something similar.

“You’ve got to fly it and let it speak for itself,” a United Airlines official told the Los Angeles Times on the return of the Douglas DC-10 after that jet was grounded following a fatal crash in 1979. A similar scenario appears likely for the MAX.

Related: Boeing delays 777X, 737 MAX timeline as COVID hits business

Among its airline customers, Boeing has lost hundreds of commitments for the MAX since the jet was grounded. These have included cancellations from large 737 operators like GOL in Brazil as well as from lessors like BOC Aviation that frequently lease out their planes to both big and small carriers.

Despite the setbacks, the planemaker continues to make progress towards returning the MAX to service. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is in the middle of a public comment period on its proposed changes to the MAX, a necessary pre-requisite for it issuing a directive allowing the plane to return to the sky.

Boeing hopes to resume delivering 737 MAXes to customers in the fourth quarter, which begins in October. This could allow airlines to begin flying them by or before the Christmas holidays.

Related: FAA move could have Boeing 737 MAX flying again this fall

Featured image by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images.

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