MIAMI — At a conference in New York City on Wednesday, Boeing CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, expressed cautious optimism to critics of the company’s handling of the 737 MAX crisis, advising they are currently in the process of applying for final software certification.
“Returning the 737 MAX to service is the company’s number one focus,” he told investors at the annual Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference.
Admitting the company has a long road ahead to restoring public confidence in Boeing, Muilenburg added, “we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the Max is safe to fly.”
The 737 MAX jets were grounded worldwide in March following the discovery of an inconspicuous flight-control feature being linked to 346 fatalities amid two air crashes in the span of six months.
Muilenburg remains hopeful that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will exercise its usual due diligence and swiftly approve the recently-completed software fix Boeing has retrofitted for the aircraft.
Sources told Reuters that the FAA expects to approve the jet’s return to service as soon as late June.
Even with a possible early stamp of approval from regulators, getting the furloughed aircraft up and running and flight-worthy again is highly contingent upon the respective airline’s performance checks, pilot re-training and software updates which could take weeks, if not months.
Anticipating foreign regulatory bodies follow FAA’s lead might not materialize, however, as the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) told reporters Wednesday that the 737 MAX jet is unlikely to re-enter service before August.
“We do not expect something before 10 to 12 weeks in re-entry into service,” said IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac. “But it is not our hands. That is in the hands of regulators.”
IATA plans to organize a summit with airlines, regulators, and Boeing in five to seven weeks to discuss what is needed for the 737 MAX to return to service, he said.
Boeing is also planning on deploying field service teams to each stored 737 MAX globally to ensure the supply chain is stable before ramping up output.
Adding that the company is prepared to work with each carrier to ensure they are satisfied with compensatory measures Boeing is equipped to offer.
“There are a number of different ways we can address this (compensation) issue,” he said. “In some cases cash may be part of the solution.”
In an exclusive interview with CBS Evening News, which aired Wednesday night, Muilenburg apologized to the families of the victims of both air crashes.
“We feel terrible about these accidents, and we apologize for what happened, we are sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents, and that will never change. That will always be with us. I can tell you it affects me directly as a leader of this company, it’s very difficult,” he said.