July 21, 2020 / 4:44 PM / 18 days ago

Boeing 737 MAX not expected to fly before October, FAA preparing directive

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Tuesday it plans to issue a proposed airworthiness directive for the Boeing 737 MAX in the “near future” to address changes made since the plane was grounded in March 2019 after two fatal crashes killed 346 people.

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX airplane lands after a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Karen Ducey/File Photo

An official briefed on the matter told Reuters that the FAA is unlikely to unground the 737 MAX before sometime in October. Boeing Co (BA.N) has said it expects to resume deliveries before Sept. 30 following regulatory approval.

Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the schedule for the jet’s return to service will be determined by regulators.

“Boeing is working closely with the FAA and other international regulators to meet their expectations as we work to safely return the 737 MAX to service,” Johndroe said.

The crisis over the grounding of the once top-selling 737 MAX has cost the U.S. planemaker more than $18 billion, slashed production and hobbled its supply chain, with criminal and congressional investigations still ongoing.

The FAA said the public will have 45 days to comment on “proposed design changes and crew procedures to mitigate the safety issues identified during the investigations that followed the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents.” The FAA noted there are still some key steps before the plane can resume commercial service.

On July 1, the FAA said it had completed three days of certification test flights on the 737 MAX’s automated flight control system.

Final planning is under way for the FAA’s Flight Standardization Board (FSB) and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) review of proposed training for flight crews, based on design changes and crew procedures.

The JOEB will include regulators from Canada, Europe and Brazil and will evaluate minimum pilot training requirements. The FSB will issue a draft report for public comment addressing JOEB findings.

The FAA will review Boeing’s final design documentation to evaluate compliance with regulations and the multi-agency Technical Advisory Board will review the final Boeing submission and issue a report prior to a final FAA determination of compliance.

Boeing agreed to add significant safeguards to a key safety system tied to both crashes, make other software updates and move wiring bundles.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Marguerita Choy and Matthew Lewis

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