Nation & World

FAA head: Boeing 737 MAX will return

But its timetable is uncertain

Bloomberg

FAA acting Administrator Daniel Elwell listens during a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on the status of Boeing’s 737 MAX, in Washington, D.C., this past week.
Bloomberg FAA acting Administrator Daniel Elwell listens during a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on the status of Boeing’s 737 MAX, in Washington, D.C., this past week.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The head of the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday insisted there’s no fixed schedule for lifting the order that has grounded Boeing’s 737 MAX since March 13.

“It takes as long as it takes,” acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said. “The 737 MAX will fly again when we have gone through all of the necessary analysis to determine that it is safe to do so.

“If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us confidence to lift the order, then so be it. I’m not tied to a timeline.”

Though the plane potentially still could return to service in the United States as early as August, that fast-track schedule privately suggested last month by both Boeing and the FAA may have been delayed by technical hitches and by public unease.

Ahead of Thursday’s meeting of top officials from civil aviation authorities around the globe to discuss what’s needed before the MAX can fly again, Elwell said Boeing still has not submitted its final proposed software fix for the flight-control system that erroneously activated on Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines 737 Maxs and led to two deadly crashes — despite Boeing’s announcement last week that the software fix was “completed.”

An FAA spokesman on the sidelines of the meeting said the safety agency has a clear idea of the main elements of Boeing’s fix and knows the steps that need to be done to certify and validate Boeing’s work. How long those steps will take remains fuzzy.

Elwell said Boeing had earlier committed to deliver its software fix on March 26, but at the last minute decided it needed to make adjustments after an independent internal Boeing review found problems that needed to be addressed.

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Fifty-seven delegates representing civil aviation authorities in 33 countries have gathered for the meeting Thursday at the FAA’s southwest regional office in Fort Worth — including officials from Indonesia and Ethiopia, the two countries leading the investigations into the two fatal MAX crashes that killed 346 people.

“We will be sharing with them the safety analysis that will form the basis for our return-to-service decision,” Elwell said.

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