MIAMI — Boeing announced on Monday that it expects deliveries of its 737 MAX aircraft to resume next month, with full return to service possible by January 2020. The company’s stock rose 5% after the statement.
The announcement offers some degree of optimism regarding the model’s return to service after being grounded worldwide since March. Boeing stated last week that it expected U.S. regulators to approve the return of the aircraft for next month, with the Monday statement offering a more enhanced timeline.
Boeing has requested from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that deliveries recommence once the grounding has been lifted before new pilot training can be approved. If accommodated, this would allow the Chicago-based manufacturer to resume deliveries to customers in December.
The deliveries would be the first since March when the aircraft was grounded after the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash.
Production of the 737 MAX has continued at a delayed pace, but storage has been a cause for concern, with aircraft being kept in employee parking lots in Seattle.
Not only does Boeing wish to remove surplus aircraft from its lots, but the company is also hoping to recognize the revenue from these 737 MAX sales by fulfilling deliveries to customer airlines.
The Technical Advisory Board, an FAA panel created specifically to review the 737 MAX’s recertification process, recently found Boeing’s design changes to be safe and conforming to regulation. In addition, the company has completed a successful test of the new flight control software in simulation.
However, there are still several steps that must be taken in order to return the 737 MAX to service. Even after the plane’s re-certification flights, the FAA needs an additional 30 days to vet the aircraft before it can be ungrounded.
In addition, most major operators of the 737 MAX have expressed that they will likely require another month of training and adjustment before returning the model to service.
Boeing’s next step in the certification process is an extensive simulator session that will span several days and require input from an advanced team of global pilots.
The company will also require a software documentation audit before its certification flight, a step that has not been completed as of last week.
Given the extent of the project that remains to be completed, major airlines – including American and Southwest – have pushed back the return of the MAX to their fleets to early March 2020. As of now, the FAA has not offered a definitive timeline regarding the MAX’s recertification.