The 737 Max is not expected to return to the skies until mid-2020, based on the latest estimate by manufacturer Boeing.
The company was initially hoping the aircraft would be recertified by the end of last year, but Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Boss Steve Dickson told US lawmakers that the process is “not guided by a calendar or schedule”.
Now Boeing has issued an update saying it estimates the grounding order on the Max will be lifted “during mid-2020”, “informed by our experience to date with the certification process”.
It added the estimate “accounts for the rigorous scrutiny that regulatory authorities are rightly applying at every step of their review of the 737 Max’s flight control system”.
There have been reports recently that inside sources said the manufacturer has run into a new glitch in the Max’s flight computers, though they stressed the issue is not related to the software revisions for the aircraft’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) following two fatal crashes and would not occur in flight. Those updates are what regulators must test in order to recertify the plane.
Boeing fired Dennis Muilenburg as chief executive last month, replacing him with David Calhoun as it continues efforts to win back trust. However, it revealed that Muilenburg walked away with US$62 million on the same day one of its suppliers on the Max programme announced it would have to make 2,800 employees redundant thanks to a pause in manufacturing on the aircraft.
Giving its latest update, Boeing said: “Returning the Max safely to service is our number one priority, and we are confident that will happen. We acknowledge and regret the continued difficulties that the grounding of the 737 Max has presented to our customers, our regulators, our suppliers and the flying public. We will provide additional information about our efforts to safely return the 737 Max to service in connection with our quarterly financial disclosures next week.”