The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said the Boeing 737 Max is unlikely to be cleared to return to the skies any earlier than August.

Director Alexandre de Juniac told reporters at IATA’s AGM in Seoul that the trade body does “not expect something before ten or 12 weeks”.

However, de Juniac pointed out that the decision is up to the global regulators.

His comments come after Dan Elwell, director general of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) refused to outline a timetable for lifting the grounding order on the Boeing 737 Max, which was involved in two fatal crashes in October 2018 and March this year.

De Juniac told reporters that IATA is organising a summit with airlines, regulators and Boeing and is hoping to hold the meeting in five to seven weeks to discuss the next steps for returning the aircraft to the skies.

Boeing has completed a software updated for the 737 Max’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which investigators say is likely to have played a part in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents.

Following de Juniac’s comments, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told US television station CBS that the crashes have had “the biggest impact” on him of anything he’s seen in his 34 years with the manufacturer. He apologised again to the victims’ families and said he trusts the company’s software update following testing.

Experts have suggested that the decision to lift the ban on flying the 737 Max may come down to whether extra pilot training is needed for them to learn how to handle the updated MCAS. The system is a new feature on the aircraft, but Boeing has admitted that an extra warning system that alerts cockpit crew if a set of sensors produce contradictory data was mistakenly made optional rather than standard. Both crashed planes did not have this system installed and data recovered from their flight recorders shows the noses of the aircraft were forced down multiple times before they crashed.

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