On the eve of this year’s Paris Air Show Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) senior leadership is downplaying the likelihood of major orders or product announcements while the company remains laser focused on lifting the 737 MAX grounding.

“This won’t be a typical air show for us by any means,” BCA president and CEO Kevin McAllister said. “Walking into this air show, it’s not the number of orders, it’s getting the MAX safely returned to service.”

The manufacturer is planning to display a 787-9, but from a commercial perspective is expected to have a relatively low profile compared to recent international events. 

Acknowledging that the past few months have been “incredibly difficult” for Boeing, McAllister said the company will be spending “a significant amount of time with our customers and suppliers as we work on delivering on our commitments to safety and quality. We are very humble going into this show and extremely focused about return to service.”

Describing for the first time Boeing’s emerging campaign to unground the fleet, McAllister said key elements will include both continuing to rebuild the trust of the regulators, as well as the operators and their passengers. “We have to recognize very clearly that this is a challenge for our customer’s customers. We have work to do to earn back the confidence of the flying public.”

The company’s first priority is “doing absolutely the right thing to get the airplane safely returned to service; the regulatory approvals we need and then we have to be flawless in how we return them to service; how we get them out of storage; how we make sure as they resume flying they do so reliably. We have to make sure we have the smoothest entry-into-service (EIS) and as we win the confidence of regulators, and customers and that of the pilots and flight crews, then we will win back the confidence of the public, but clearly it will take time,” he added.

Boeing has developed action plans to help airlines bring aircraft out of storage and is working with operators to “make sure any maintenance or engineering work gets done,” McAllister said. Support activity includes positioning spare parts, deploying EIS teams to operators and “making sure we are ready with real-time support. This has been a big focus for us and we have dedicated teams around the world to do this.”

“I have been in this industry for 30-plus years and, without any doubt, this has been the most trying of times. Safety is absolutely sacred to us at the Boeing company. I don’t want to lose the fact that this is a pivotal moment for us. It’s an opportunity where we have to capture every possible learning. It’s a time when we have got to be humble and introspective and make sure an accident like this never happens again,” he added.

While there is “no commitment on timing” yet for when the flying ban will be lifted, McAllister said Boeing has “great confidence in the updated MCAS [maneuvering characteristics augmentation system] software we are bringing forward with three layers of additional protection.” The company has now flown more than 280 MAX flights with the revised MCAS 12.1 software load and has been “focused with customers on the updated training material. We’ve been getting feedback from every corner of the globe and are continuing to make sure that information gets into what we put forward to the regulators.”

The company’s daily collaborations with the regulators continues, he added. “It’s been a daily drum beat of interactions and responding to questions. It’s very clear—whatever concerns and questions they have we are here to respond to them fully, address any of their concerns and gain their confidence that the MAX is safe to return to service.”

Addressing the delayed first flight of the 777-9, the first of Boeing’s planned new long range 777X twinjet 777-300ER derivatives, McAllister said that despite the late discovery of durability issues with the General Electric GE9X, the flight test team will make use of the current engines to perform interim ground testing.

“We have got two flight test aircraft rolled out of the factory and we are staying very close to GE on this finding. But the focus inside the company on the 777X is get it right at first flight,” McAllister said. “We are absolutely relentlessly focused on doing everything we can on the ground whether its systems performance, maturity of components or propulsion. We are doing everything and anything we can do to capture lessons learned across the company to make sure we make use of the time that these aircraft have prior to first flight.”

Guy Norris Guy.norris@aviationweek.com