The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said there is no defined timetable for lifting a grounding order on the Boeing 737 Max after it was involved in two fatal crashes.
While director general Dan Elwell stated that yesterday’s meeting of aviation regulators from 33 countries was “exceedingly positive, constructive and productive”, he stated that there is still no timetable for returning the aircraft to service.
He earlier hinted that it might take longer than airlines are hoping, saying that if it took a year to get the 737 Max back in the skies “so be it”.
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said earlier this week he believes the aircraft could be flying by this summer, while American Airlines has cancelled some flights meant to be operated by the 737 Max through August.
The news comes after Boeing said it had completed a software update for the 737 Max and was preparing to hand it over to the FAA for safety testing and certification.
The Boeing 737 Max was grounded around the world following an Ethiopian Airlines crash in which all 157 people on board were killed. Five months earlier, the same model of aircraft was involved in a Lion Air accident which killed all 189 passengers and crew.
Investigations into both disasters found the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a new feature on the 737 Max, had pushed the nose of the aircraft down multiple times before they crashed.
Boeing continues to insinuate that the pilots of both flights might not have followed procedure to correct the error, but Ethiopian officials insist that the crew on the second crash repeatedly carried out Boeing’s recommended procedures.
CBS News obtained a recording of a meeting between members of American Airlines’ pilots union and Boeing that took place in November following the Lion Air crash in which one pilot said: “These guys didn’t even know the damn system was on the airplane – nor did anybody else.”
Earlier this month, Boeing admitted that it knew about a problem with the MCAS before the Lion Air crash and had intended to fix the issue in a later software update, but it did not start working on the solution until after the accident in Indonesia.
The firm has since dialled back production of the 737 Max to deal with a pause in deliveries until the grounding order is lifted. The controversy has also hit the company’s profits, though it says it does not yet know the full impact of the situation.
Three major Chinese airlines have called on Boeing to compensate them for the cost of the grounding.