MIAMI — After an intense meeting between the 33 aviation delegates that make up the FAA’s special committee on the Boeing 737 MAX software recertification, the regulatory body is no closer to setting a deadline for completion of the approval process.
“We can’t be driven by some arbitrary timeline,” Daniel Elwell, the acting administrator of the FAA, said Thursday. “I don’t have September as a target, I don’t have June as a target.”
Much to the chagrin of airline executives for major carriers like American Airlines, Southwest, Air Canada, and WestJet, all of which have pushed for the MAX’s flight restriction to be lifted sooner rather than later.
Canada, however, along with the European Union, are working closely with the American regulator but not averse to acting independently of the FAA, if the foreseeable future does not include getting the flight ban lifted sooner than later.
No stranger to scrutiny, the FAA itself remains under the microscope after being criticized for its cozier than usual relationship with the manufacturer Boeing, and not properly vetting the anti-stall system blamed for two deadly air accidents killing 346 people in the last six month before the delivery of the new 737 MAX aircraft began.
A point of contention for regulators worldwide is whether or not pilots will need to undergo extra training in a flight simulator with the updated software system. And if yes, this could mean a lengthier wait for certain countries to fly the plane again.
Boeing has finished its preliminary fix and a long list of requirements for the faulty software in recent weeks but may face more issues with its bottom line and profit margin if the FAA seeks consensus on approval process from foreign regulatory bodies.
“If they unground relatively close to when we unground, I think it would help with public confidence,” added Elwell. “We will not let the 737 MAX fly again in the U.S. until it is safe to do so.”
Southwest, which had 34 737 MAXs in operation before the grounding took place, has already canceled all MAX flights through August 5. American Airlines, which has 24 of the planes, said last month it would cancel about 115 daily flights through August 19.
Canada’s largest carrier, Air Canada, where 24 737 MAX 8s make up about 10% of its main 243-plane fleet, also suspended operations until August due to ongoing uncertainty as to when the aircraft will return to service following software updates and possible pilot training.
WestJet has removed its 13 MAX 8s from service until at least July 1, with no plans to cancel orders for 37 more 737 MAX jetliners.