Boeing 737 Max: FAA chief refuses to say when grounding order will be lifted
The chief of the US aviation regulator has refused to set out a clear timetable for the return to service of the Boeing 737 Max.
The plane was grounded across the world in March 2019 after 346 people died in two crashes in five months.
Airlines had hoped that the 737 Max would be able to fly again this summer, but Dan Elwell, the acting director general of the US Federal Aviation Authority, said he is not tied to a timetable.
When asked whether it was realistic that the plane could be flying again by the summer, Mr Elwell said: "If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us the confidence to lift the [grounding] order so be it.”
The aviation boss even suggested that the plane might not have been granted permission to fly as late as next October, despite Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary claiming that he expected the grounding order to be lifted by late June or early July.
International aviation regulators from 33 countries have also met with Elwell this week to discuss the 737 Max's return to service, where they vehemently defended their response to the two fatal crashes.
In October 2018, 189 people died in the Lion Air disaster in Indonesia. In March, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, killing 157 people on board.
According to officials from American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, each aircraft will require between 100 and 150 hours of preparation before flying once regulators lift the grounding order.
Discussions are still ongoing regarding whether or not pilots will also need additional training.
Investigators suspect that a failure in the 737 Max’s anti-stall system MCAS may have played a role in bringing the planes down.
Boeing has developed a software update to the system but this has not yet been formally submitted to the FAA.
The American Airlines Union has hit out at Boeing after the airline company suggested that some responsibility for the two crashes lay with the plane’s pilots, calling the claims “inexcusable”.