A couple of news stories emerged that could cast some doubt on the imminent return of the MAX.  One story speaks of alternative Boeing strategies to retain production employees in the event of a factory shutdown, and another highlights United moving MAX aircraft away from its hub into the desert some five months after the shutdown.

Neither of these stories seems to support an imminent return to service.  Boeing worries about employee retention may be contingency planning, but it belies the certainty with which their CEO proclaims a service re-entry before year end.  While United may be concerned about hurricanes, moving aircraft to the desert after sitting five months at their Houston hub and LAX seems illogical, and something that should have been done months ago, as Southwest and other airlines have done. Of course, having all the aircraft in one place for return to service maintenance would make sense, but it would seem easier to accomplish at a maintenance base at a hub airport rather than flying technicians to the desert.

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