By Charles H. Featherstone / Columbia Basin Herald
MOSES LAKE — Boeing and the Port of Moses Lake are in talks to extend until the end of 2021 the company’s leases on space used to store 737 Max aircraft.
According to Carol Crapson, the port’s real estate director, the port and Boeing are talking about a sixth amendment to the lease agreements that were first signed in July 2019.
Boeing is currently storing more than 250 of the 737 Max airplanes on nearly 69 acres of Grant County International Airport. All 737 Max aircraft were grounded last year following two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia linked to a software error.
The company originally signed a one-year lease with the port, with an option to extend that lease an additional six months, giving the company the right to store the aircraft at the airport until the end of 2020.
Commissioners voted unanimously to authorize Port Director Don Kersey to sign the lease amendment when the lawyers finalize it.
In late January, Boeing said it expects the 737 Max to be able to start returning to service in “mid-2020.” American Airlines said in a Feb. 14 press release that it expects “the resumption of scheduled commercial service on American’s fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft will occur Aug. 18, 2020.”
While Boeing did not respond to questions regarding the lease talks and any expectation that the 737 Max would remain grounded through 2021, company spokesman Peter Pedraza told the CBH last week there has been “no change to our estimated timeline for return to service.”
In addition to storing the aircraft here in Moses Lake, Boeing is also expected to begin test flights of its new 777X later this year after the main runway is fully repaired. The 777X is the latest version of Boeing’s 777 wide body passenger aircraft, which entered service in 1995 and sports innovative carbon fiber composite wings with folding tips.