Aviation regulators in the US have announced an important milestone in returning Boeing's grounded 737 Max jet to service, an event one person familiar with the process said would happen no earlier than October.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) yesterday announced it is preparing to issue formal legal directives for repairs required on the jet, which indicates that the agency is comfortable with the manufacturer's proposed redesigns. The public will have 45 days to comment on the FAA's action.
With the public comment period and multiple other steps required before a final action, the grounding probably won't be lifted until October at the soonest, said the person, who wasn't authorised to speak about the issue and asked not to be named.
That is later than the "mid-year" Boeing had most recently projected, but few carriers are clamouring for the plane with air traffic volumes plunging due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The FAA said it plans "in the near future" to release a proposed new regulation codifying the changes to the plane that will be required before it can resume carrying passengers.
Boeing rose 3.8pc to $181 (€157) in New York yesterday afternoon.
The FAA announcement comes three weeks after the agency conducted three days of test flights in which they put the redesigned software through its paces. The plane, which is Boeing's largest seller, suffered two fatal crashes that killed 346 people within less than five months. The plane was grounded worldwide in March 2019 after the second crash. Both accidents were tied to a safety feature on the plane that malfunctioned and repeatedly commanded the jets to dive.
Boeing redesigned the software system so that it can no longer fire repeatedly during a malfunction and took other steps to prevent such a crash from happening again. During post-accident evaluations of the plane, the FAA and Boeing also concluded that its flight-control computer needed to be redesigned, which proved more complicated than the initial fixes.
"While the posting of the NPRM is an important milestone, a number of key steps remain," the FAA said, referring to the notice of proposed rule-making process.
The agency is also reviewing how pilots react to the design changes and is assessing what kinds of new training will be required.