MIAMI – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in the final stages of reviewing proposed changes to Boeing’s 737 MAX. It expects to complete the process in the “coming days,” the agency’s chief told Reuters on Monday.
Three sources briefed on the matter told Reuters the FAA is set to lift its grounding order on the plane as early as Nov 18.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told Reuters in a statement that he expects “that we will finish this process in the coming days, once the agency is satisfied that Boeing has addressed” safety issues involved in two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. Boeing declined to comment.
Reuters says that the FAA decision comes as other global regulators also move closer to decisions on allowing the plane to resume flights. Those approvals could come around the time U.S. regulators act, the sources said.
Vital for Boeing Recovery
The ungrounding would be a vital step in a still-arduous path to recovery for Boeing. The company plunged into its worst-ever crisis after the crashes and the worldwide grounding of its best-selling plane in March 2019. “The FAA continues to engage with aviation authorities around the world as they prepare to validate our certification decision,” Dickson said.
“As I have said many times before, the agency will take the time that it needs to thoroughly review the remaining work. Even though we are near the finish line, I will lift the grounding order only after our safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards.”
Following the FAA OK, airlines must complete software updates and fresh Pilot training. That process will take at least 30 days. Only then can the planes return to the skies. Southwest Airlines (WN), the world’s largest MAX operator, said it would take several months to comply with the FAA requirements. It does not plan to schedule flights on the aircraft until Q2 2021.
The grounding has cost the US planemaker billions, hobbled its supply chain, and triggered investigations that faulted Boeing and the FAA for a lack of transparency and weak oversight during the jet’s development, among other problems. A Justice Department criminal investigation is ongoing.
As the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the MAX crisis, Boeing slashed production and shed thousands of jobs. It has been locked in negotiations with airlines over taking delivery of some 450 already built 737 MAX planes currently stored at facilities around the United States.
Last month, China’s aviation regulator said it had not set a timetable for the plane’s return to service.
Europe’s chief aviation safety regulator said in September it could give the MAX regulatory approval to resume flying in November to enter service by the end of the year.
Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu said Monday he expects the MAX to fly in Canada early next year.
Featured image: Boeing