WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The leader of the pilot union of Southwest Airlines Co on Wednesday strongly criticized Boeing Co and questioned whether the manufacturer was trying to accelerate the deadline for 737 MAX to be put back into service.
FILE PHOTOS: A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, CA, March 26, 2019. REUTERS / Mike Blake / File Photo
Boeing MAX Bestseller 737 was justified in March, after two deadly catastrophes killed 346 people in five months and has come under severe criticism from US lawmakers.
John Weeks, who heads the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association (SWAPA), said in a note to pilots on Wednesday reviewed by Reuters that "Boeing is increasingly announcing that they may need to close their production line due to exhaustion of the MAX Aircraft Completion Room. There is some concern that this is just another tactic to push the (return to service) timeline. "
He added that this would" force operators to resume payments with MAX aircraft and transfer some costs, logistics and responsibilities. of storing and restoring MAX to service the revenue of the respective operators. ”
Boeing did not comment immediately on Wednesday.
Southwest Airlines spokesman Brandy King said the airline is "confident in the work being done to get MAX back in service and is still waiting for additional guidance from Boeing and the FAA on timing and next steps."
On Monday , Boeing spokesman Gordon Jondro told Reuters that "we expect Max to be certified, an airworthiness directive was issued, unjustified in mid-December." He added that the company expects "pilot training requirements will be approved in January."  Boeing noted that "the FAA and other regulators will eventually determine the return to service. "
Two federal officials told Reuters this week that Boeing's schedule is aggressive and far from certain, citing obstacles that will still have to be removed.
Boeing still has to complete an audit of its software documentation before it can schedule a key certification test flight.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Chief Steve Dickson on Tuesday said the agency did not "delegate" anything to Boeing in its review and did not offer an unjustified schedule, saying that "it will be based solely on our assessment of the adequacy of what is proposed by Boeing Software Update and Pilot Training. "
On Friday, Southwest and American Airlines extended the cancellation of the Boeing 737 MAX until early March, simply shy of the one-year anniversary of the Ethiopian Airlines crash
. ] Last month, SWAPA brought a case Boeing, claiming it "intentionally misled" the airline and pilots, grounding the destruction of more than 30,000 Southwest Airlines flights, causing more than $ 100 million in lost wages to the pilots, the union said. in New York Editing by Gary Doyle