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By Max Kingsley-Jones, Senior Consultant at Ascend by Cirium
Boeing passed a notable albeit poignant landmark recently in the return of the 737 Max, when deliveries since the restart in December 2020 overtook the total completed prior to the grounding in March 2019.
A total of 387 Max deliveries were made between May 2017 and March 2019, when the fleetwide grounding led to a suspension in shipments for around 20 months. Deliveries restarted on 8 December 2020 (with United taking the first of the new batch), and the pre-grounding tally was overtaken during the month of May 2022. By the end of the month, total Max deliveries had passed 790 aircraft.
Cirium data shows that of the 404 Max deliveries completed since the restart, Ryanair group has taken the single largest portion (69 Max 8-200s). As highlighted above, the post-grounding delivery tally comprises 175 newly built aircraft and 229 from pre-built inventory (i.e. flew prior to the December 2020 restart). However, Boeing has also been stockpiling newly built aircraft since the production restart, with for example four of the May 2022 deliveries having first flown last year.
The glut of pre-built, undelivered aircraft remains at around 260 aircraft and is dominated by Chinese customers who account for around 140 aircraft.
There is currently little sign of a resumption of deliveries there, despite some promise earlier this year when the Chinese authorities indicated progress towards a resolution in the grounding situation.
As the graph above shows, the Max delivery trajectory has been sluggish, taking 18 months to pass the level reached pre-grounding (which occurred 23 months into the first delivery period). The graph also highlights how the 20-month suspension has created large shipment deficit to A320neo family, to the tune of around 1,450 aircraft.
Boeing says it is heading towards its 31 per month output target this quarter. However, Cirium data indicates that the first-flight rate of 737s is still significantly below that level, with monthly volumes having not exceeded 26 so far this year.
The Max’s return to service has now effectively been completed in all regions other than Asia-Pacific, with four-fifths of the global fleet in operation. But a similar share of Asia-Pacific Max fleet remains grounded, including the 100 aircraft in China.