Planemaking giant Boeing is planning to restart production of the grounded 737 Max in May, sources told Reuters, despite disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The US manufacturer, which is currently in negotiations with the federal government about state aid to help it through the current crisis, suspended production of the model in January due to a lack of regulatory approvals and a 400 plane order backlog.
Yesterday President Donald Trump said that he would not let Boeing go out of business in an interview with Fox News.
“We’re not letting Boeing go out of business. You have to help them temporarily. It’s not going to be a long time, temporarily”, the president said.
He added: “And they’re going to pay interest and they’re probably going to give stock in their company to the people of our country, to the taxpayers of our country, to the citizens of our country”.
Despite the coronavirus slump, the aerospace giant is now scaling up preparations to restart production amid hopes the plane will be approved to fly again by mid 2020.
The 737 Max has been grounded for over a year after the model suffered two fatal crashes, which killed 346 people in total.
Sources told Reuters that Boeing had asked some suppliers to ship parts for the plane in April, although the extent of the coronavirus disruption would impact the restart.
Finance chief Greg Smith said that any restart in production would be combined with clearing Boeing’s order backlog.
This might prove challenging, as several airlines have been in negotiations to delay new plane orders after having to ground vast swathes of their fleets due to sweeping restrictions on travel as a result of the virus.
“Priority number one is getting customers’ fleets back up,” Smith told Reuters: “We don’t want to add to inventory.”
A Boeing spokesperson said: “We are continuing to assess our progress towards completing milestones to return the 737 MAX to service, and will make determinations about resuming production and deliveries accordingly”.
On Monday Boeing shut its production sites near Seattle after a spate of cases of coronavirus.
The firm has called on the US government to free up $60bn (£50.4bn) to help protect it and the rest of the plane manufacturing industry in the US.
Shares in Boeing rose over 20 per cent yesterday.