Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Boeing announced Monday that it will suspend production of the Max 737 beginning in January as it awaits certification for the grounded aircraft.
The company issued a statement saying the decision to halt production of the planes was the result of the process to recertify the aircraft, after it was involved in two deadly crashes, being extended into 2020, as well as uncertainty about the timing and conditions for the planes to return to service and an effort to prioritize delivering stored aircraft.
"Safely returning the 737 Max to service is our top priority. We know that the process of approving the 737 Max's return to service and of determining appropriate training requirements must be extraordinarily thorough and robust, to ensure that our regulators, customers and the flying public have confidence in the 737 Max updates," Boeing said.
Boeing added that it continued to manufacture new aircraft during the suspension of the 737 Max and has about 400 in storage
"We have previously stated that we would continually evaluate our production plans should the Max grounding continue longer than we expected," Boeing said. "As a result of this ongoing evaluation, we have decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production of the 737 program beginning next month."
The company added that affected employees will continue with 737-related work or be temporarily assigned to other teams in Puget Sound.
The 737 Max was grounded by regulators in countries throughout the world after two crashes overseas that killed 346 people. Both crashes were blamed on the aircraft's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which erroneously activated shortly after takeoff, diving the planes toward the ground believing they were stalling.
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration said it has not completed its review of the 737 Max aircraft design changes and associated pilot training and would conduct the certification process at its own pace.