Boeing will halt production of its troubled 737 MAX

COMMERCIAL AVIATION makes up the bulk of Boeing’s revenues. Military-minded top brass of its large defence arm would be excused for seeing that business as a case study in tactical and strategic failure. After two crashes of its 737 MAX airliners, which killed 346 people and were linked to a defective flight-software system, the bestselling model was grounded around the world in March. Yet Boeing continued to make the plane even though it could no longer deliver new ones to customers. Now it is in retreat. On December 16th, with around 800 new and used flightless jets lying idle, the firm decided to halt production in January until the MAX is permitted back in the air. The upheaval may at last force a rethink at Boeing—and at Airbus, its European rival.

For months Boeing seemed to treat the MAX’s travails as a brief spell of turbulence that passengers forget as soon as the drinks trolley arrives. It continued to pay a handsome dividend even as it converted employees’ car parks into storage space for undelivered planes. It repeatedly reassured airlines that the aircraft would be back in the air in no time—and was proved wrong again and again. Dennis Muilenburg, criticised for his handling of the crisis and relieved of his role as Boeing’s chairman in October, remains chief executive.

Mr Muilenburg’s decision to keep the...



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