The approval process is moving at an icy pace, taking more than a year more than Boeing (BA) I was hoping. Even with recent progress, there are many bureaucratic procedures, aircraft repairs and pilot training that need to be completed, enough to prevent airlines from boarding aircraft until sometime next year.
Some good news for Boeing came on Friday, when the EU Aviation Safety Agency confirmed that it was also approaching to make things clear. However, it will take more than a month to complete this final approval.
Patrick Kay, the agency’s chief executive, told Bloomberg he was pleased with the steps Boeing had taken to make the plane safe. But even after approval to fly again, the agency will still require Boeing to make additional software upgrades for an additional layer of layoffs. That will probably take another two years, he said.
The plane has been landing since March 201
9 after two fatal crashes that killed 346 people.
Initially, Boeing had hoped for a relatively short grounding, but it was difficult to get approval. And the FAA has faced its own criticism of how it initially approved the plane as safe to fly, and why it did not operate in the five months between the first and second crashes. The disturbing documents revealed that Boeing engineers and other employees had doubts about the safety of the aircraft during the initial inspection of the aircraft.
For most of last year, Boeing predicted it would fly by the fourth quarter of 2019. Earlier this year, it predicted it would receive approval by the middle of the year. Now the end of 2020 seems to be the best scenario for the approval of the aircraft.
“We continue to work closely with global regulators on a rigorous process to re-certify the 737 Max and safely return the aircraft to commercial service,” he said. Boeing (BA). “We are committed to answering regulators’ questions and meeting all certification and regulatory requirements.”
Last week, the FAA released a draft of the proposed pilot training for Max, just one of half a dozen procedural steps the agency has envisioned that will need to be completed before giving airlines final approval to fly the plane again.
And while the FAA works with aviation regulators around the world, these other regulators have their own approval processes. Most of the 400 grounded planes are owned by foreign airlines.
With an unusual move last month, Steve Dixon, head of the FAA and a former airline pilot, made his test flight to Max. He then said he liked what he saw in flight, but wanted to make some changes to the training pilots would receive to fly back on the plane. “Not so much in the procedures, but in the story that describes the procedures,” he told reporters after the flight.
The cause of both fatal crashes is a protective function designed to push the nose of the plane down if it climbs too steeply and is in danger of being stopped. But the defective monitors showed false readings on these two fields and the pilots failed to remove the planes from the dives.
The landing cost Boeing at least $ 18.7 billion in increased production costs, compensation for airline customers and costs to develop improvements.
And the problems in Boeing only get worse after grounding Max. Demand for ground flights nearly stopped earlier this year, and airline losses jumped when the pandemic struck, drastically reducing aircraft orders and deliveries.
There are currently about 7,300 earlier versions of the 737 on airlines around the world, and nearly 20 percent of them are parked, according to Cirium Fleets, which tracks aircraft used worldwide.
Once Max is approved to fly again, airlines can start using them, even if it means parking some of the older planes that are now in use. Max was Boeing’s best-selling aircraft before grounding, in part because it was more economical and therefore cheaper to operate than earlier versions.
But Boeing may still have a problem with the brand. As many passengers are already nervous about flying in the midst of a pandemic, there is uncertainty about customers’ willingness to fly the 737 Max. Several airlines have said they will allow passengers to book other flights if they do not want to fly the 737 Max.
– CNN’s Hannah Ziadi contributed to this report