Boeing 737 may return to air by late June
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects to approve Boeing's 737 MAX jet to return to service as soon as late June, representatives of the US air regulator informed members of the United Nations' aviation agency in a private briefing, according to Reuters sources.
The target, if achieved, means US airlines would not have to greatly extend costly cancellations of 737 MAX jets they have already put in place for the peak summer flying season. But the FAA representatives warned there was no firm timetable to get the planes back in the air.
American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines suspended 737 MAX flights into July and August after the FAA grounded Boeing's best-selling jet in March following two crashes in five months that killed 346 people.
FAA and Boeing officials privately briefed members of the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) governing council in Montreal on the 737 MAX on Thursday, the same day the FAA's acting administrator Dan Elwell met with international air regulators for eight hours in Fort Worth.
Laying out a potential schedule for getting the 737 MAX back in the air in the US goes further than the FAA's public statements so far.
Elwell repeated previous statements that the FAA will not approve the plane for flight until it has completed a safety analysis, with no set timetable.
The path to getting the 737 MAX back in the air outside the US remains even more uncertain. Canada and Europe said on Wednesday they would bring back the grounded aircraft on their own terms, not the FAA's.
The FAA has said it will not reverse its decision to ground the plane until it sees the findings of a multi-agency review of Boeing's plan to fix software on the 737 MAX, considered a common link in the two crashes.
Boeing said last week it had completed an update to the software but is yet to formally submit the fix to the FAA.
"Once we have addressed the information requests from the FAA, we will be ready to schedule a certification test flight and submit final certification documentation," Boeing communications director Chaz Bickers said.
Even after the FAA lifts its ban on 737 MAX flights, airlines will have to spend about 100 and 150 hours getting each aircraft ready to fly again after being put in storage, plus time for training pilots on the new software.
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