FAA Admits Boeing 737 MAX Could Be Flying Before Mid Year

On Friday, Federal Aviation Administrator Steve Dickson called senior U.S. airline officials to tell them that the agency would be able to approve the Boeing 737 MAX’s return to service before mid-year according to sources.

Icelandair 737 MAX
Icelandair said it does not expect to operate the 737 MAX during the summer high season. Photo: Getty Images

According to Reuters, the call comes just days after Boeing provided an update on the timeline for the plane’s return to service. In its latest periodic briefing regarding the 737 MAX’s return, Boeing said it didn’t expect the aircraft back in service until mid-2020 but acknowledged that regulators would decide when the aircraft flies again.

We reached out to the FAA for comment and this is what they had to say:

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“While the FAA continues to follow a thorough, deliberate process, the agency is pleased with Boeing’s progress in recent weeks toward achieving key milestones. Safety is the top priority, and the FAA continues to work with other safety regulators to ensure that Boeing has addressed all known issues with the aircraft.” -FAA Spokesperson

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Timeline is ‘very conservative’

The FAA confirmed in a statement that Dickson is reiterating that his agency “has set no time frame for completion of certification work on the aircraft.” However, the administration says that it is “pleased with Boeing’s progress in recent weeks toward achieving key milestones.”

A Reuters source close to the matter said the Boeing mid-year timeline is “very conservative”, meaning that it’s possible FAA approval could happen before mid-year should Boeing continue its current rate of progress. However, unexpected issues could very well arise in the next few months.

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Getty images boeing 737 MAx groundings
The grounding of the 737 MAX has hit Boeing’s annual employee bonuses. Photo: Getty Images

Dealing with U.S. carriers

Boeing would certainly be feeling pressure from U.S. carriers as the one-year mark of the grounding draws closer. Carriers American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines have all pushed back MAX flights in their respective flight schedules.

American Airlines announced 10 days ago that it doesn’t expect to be using its MAX until after 4 June. Southwest has a similar estimation, taking the MAX out until June 6th. In fact, Southwest confirmed that it has to cancel 175 flights a-day until the MAX is back. United even told investors that it does not anticipate operating the 737 MAX this summer.

Thai-airways-lcc-struggle
Boeing recently shut down MAX production. Photo: Getty Images

Conclusion

It’s a relatively good sign if the head of the FAA is confirming that a ‘very conservative’ estimate puts the MAX back in service even before mid-2020. Unfortunately, it’s still possible that many airlines will miss out on at least part of the busy summer season.

If the FAA’s estimate proves accurate, airlines may need to ensure all of their 737 pilots have sufficient MAX simulator training, depending on if the FAA agrees with Boeing and its recommendation. Reuters reports that airlines will need at least 30 days after the FAA grants approval. This time period is for pilot training, software updates and required maintenance.

Do you think this timeline will play out as planned? Or do you think another issue will surface within the next few months? Let us know in the comments!

We also reached out to Boeing with a request for a comment. We’ll update this story if any response is received.

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Kaden

Keul!

Greg

“Admits” is a weird word to use in the headline. The connotation is that it’s somehow wrong for them to be flying before mid-year. Was that the intention?

Blair

Poor writing on the author’s part. Simple Flying, while timely informed about aviation industry activity, continues to lack an editor who can fix these grammatical errors and oft time spelling errors.

Ravioliollie

C’mon, understand that this isn’t a library discussion. This sh!tshow will come down to nationalism. The jacka$$ in the House will whip this into a frenzy about it us against Europe.

TonytTDK

‘Suggests’ would be a much more appropriate word.?

John Wanjohi

Boeing I beleive it's time for your turn around. Please do look after the families of the 346 from the Max accidents. You will rise to be the aviation giant you are and always will be. Keep working and invest in research and development in preparation for your bright future ahead. Keep safety at the core of your mondus operandi. Good calls on the delays to B777X first flight. Safety first.

Brandon Martinez

Well said man! I put a like on that

JackFlash

So they keep putting new “better” hacks to already hacked airframe/engines hack.

Blair

Until Boeing fixes the Center of Gravity (CG) problem with the MAX it will never be a safe airplane.

Andrew Richards

Strange how this comes at the end of a week when another Aviation Press report mentioned the third quarter, so Airlines would miss the Summer peak season. Also it comes at a time when Boeing, America’s favourite company has no narrow body production revenue, the 747 line is crawling, 767s are freighters for FedEx or problems for U.S.A.F. There are problems with the new 777 and slow sales of the current versions of the 777, so all Boeing has that is trouble free is the 787. So are we now seeing the same thing again where certification is going to… Read more »

Blair

As a former manufacturer I understood early on the depth of the problems at Boeing in engineering and quality control. But first and foremost I quickly recognized that the problem started at the management level of Boeing, starting with its CEO, followed by its head engineers. But let us not forget that Boeing’s Board of Directors sat fat, dumb, and well compensated during all of this, one debacle after another. Indeed, the current CEO, Calhoun, served on the Board for the last ten years. Where is his culpability?

Ravioliollie

Why shouldn’t Boeing be immune from the too big to fail department? Didn’t the banksters take the money and run under O’Bomber? Hail to the corporations screw the common folks.

TonytTDK

Did the bankers actually ‘take the money & run’….?
Or are those banks still there, serving the public & business pretty-much the way they did before the GFC.?
So actually they took the money AND STAYED……. didn’t they.???

TonytTDK

I agree with the bulk of your analysis,
but would add that the B787 is still massively in debt over it’s production & development costs, at a time when Boeing are starting to slow-down production due to a drop in sales
AND there is still the unresolved issue about a lack of Faraday-insulation of the plastic fuselages’ which was removed on the later aircraft without telling the FAA or the coustomer airlines.???

John

As well as ladders and parts left in the tail and elsewhere. Hmmm

mohave

Boeing’s market share will continue to decrease as Airbus eats Boeing’s lunch. The 737 should have gone the way of the 727 5 years ago.

Mrme

It’s a mirage, it will never fly again but they are scared to admit it. The plane is flawed and Software won’t make it any safer.

Guest

One of the most realistic and best comments ever made about Boeing 737 MAX.
It will never fly again. Even if airliners insist on flying, nobody will board.
Boeing and American Government have been trying to gain more time and thinking about “How will they compensate the damage if an international 737 MAX crush campaign starts”.
And all! the airliners want to cancel 737 MAX orders but they fear of American Government and American Sanctions.

JFP

If Washington state still had a U.S. Senator like the late Henry Jackson, the 737 MAX never would’ve been grounded. Anywhere.

Dos

Why so?

Jim

What’s so great about Henry Jackson?? You’re alleging he could turn a blind eye to the two fatal flights and 346 people dead on top of everything we’ve all learned about Boeing and the fatally flawed max ??? My partner flies Ryannair on cost alone, I’d prefer she spend a few more euros and go with another airline and I’ll be damned if she gets on board one of OLearys rebranded 737-8200’s if/as/when he gets any.

TonytTDK

You’re NUTS…… The FAA was THE LAST World regulatory authority to ground the MAX, not the first.! Henry Jackson could’ve jumped up & down in rage untill he was blue in the face, but he wouldn’t have stopped China, the country with the most MAX’s in service, grounding it. Nor would Mr Jackson have stopped all of the rest of the Worlds regulators, apart from the good ol’ USofA from grounding it either.! The FAA was the follower, NOT the leader of the grounding….. AND the FACT that it has been grounded for 10 months & will probably end up… Read more »

Maria

I don”t think that this timeline will be as planned, due to the seriousness and complexity of the matter. Safety is a top serious and complicated issue and, in this case, with those 2 fatal accidents, maybe it will be necessary to check and re-check and be absolutely confident that no other big problem arises. In many cases, bad image is not easy to be changed!!

John

I didn’t see any sort of indication that the FAA was saying before mid year? The article’s assumptions are predicated on what? Even if they approved the plane for flight tomorrow, it will take months to update the planes, train pilots and do necessary maintenance to return them to flight. I think someone is being quite optimistic here?

TonytTDK

No, the FAA will certify it when they do; be that today, next week or whenever. From THAT day it will be licensed to fly in the USA & in any other area which accepts US FAA certification. That doesn’t mean that there wil necessarily be any Pilots licensed to fly it for passenger services, but the aircraft itself will no-longer be grounded. What FAA certification DOES NOT necessarily mean though, is that the Rest of the World will automatically accept the FAA certification as ‘good enough for them’. China has said it WILL require a full certification of the… Read more »

Jim

Software updates ????????? Wtf !!!!!

Chris

In my view Boeing have patched the MAX to the max, Max and I have not heard they have done anything about redesigning the instabilities and fixed them aerodynamically. I’m assuming the fixes are some better indicators, some trim switch change, some software. Where is the fix to the trim wheel size? Why would they now rely on just two AOA sensors that do go wrong in service. How many times will the new MCAS activate, how long, how much travel and what do they mean by “once” per ?. So there will be new training on how to handle… Read more »

Peter J CESNIK

Poor choice of words from Boeing. Expects, envisages, anticipates would be more appropriate choice of words

Brandon Martinez

Ya’ll remember the Dehavilland comet? the worldwide fleet had to be grounded while they worked out it’s issues and it re-entered service with a refreshed design and served reliably with airlines into the 1970’s. Granted they didn’t have all of the fancy equipment and software we have now, but I still have confidence in it for the same reason.