by ALLISON LAMPERT AND TIM HEPHER, MONTREAL/PARIS REUTERS PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 18, 2019
While the world’s Boeing 737 Max fleet remains grounded after two fatal crashes, a solitary Air Canada plane has been spotted in the skies, shuttling between Quebec and Ontario.
In a rare exemption, approved by Canadian aviation regulator Transport Canada, the 11 flights in August and September were partly to maintain the qualifications of senior training pilots, Air Canada told Reuters in response to a query about flight tracking data.
A spokesman for Air Canada said the airline was not able to use similar 737s within its fleet “to maintain check pilot authority in alignment with (Canadian aviation regulations)”.
“So we are utilizing the 737 Max during planned maintenance movements to maintain qualification.”
Between Aug 28 and Sept 8, the Air Canada Max plane criss-crossed between Montreal, Val d’Or, Quebec and North Bay, Ontario, data from Tracking website FlightRadar24 shows.
Then last week, it was flown to Pinal Airpark in Arizona to be parked in a desert storage site.
Although unusual after the grounding imposed worldwide in March amid concerns over an anti-stall system, the flights highlight growing pressures facing some airlines as they prepare for the return to service of the 400-plane Boeing fleet.
The planes have been sitting idle since March following two crashes in the space of five months.
For airlines like Air Canada, which did not have earlier versions of Boeing 737s in their fleets, this has made it difficult to make sure pilots can demonstrate the skills required to retain their licenses.
As North America’s sole Max operator which had not flown the earlier 737NG, Air Canada cannot use that model to maintain the qualifications of its check or trainer pilots, the company said.
So regulator Transport Canada authorized a select group of Air Canada’s check pilots to fly the grounded jet, which was also conducting maintenance flights, the airline said.
All the jets have the same control software suspected of contributing to the accidents, which Boeing is now in the process of revising to smooth its impact. However, some pilots have said existing procedures can prevent similar accidents.
Boeing declined to comment.
Transport Canada said in an e-mail that it authorized the flights “because the carrier does not operate the Boeing 737 NG aircraft, but the pilots still need to maintain currency.”
However, one U.S. carrier questioned by Reuters said such flights would not be possible in the United States where pilot training was not included in a list of exemptions to the ban issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Pilot currency isn’t a listed exemption in the U.S. order,” an FAA spokeswoman confirmed.
North American Max operators, including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Canada’s WestJet Airlines, said they would only move their Max jets for maintenance and storage purposes.
Air Canada’s position as a newly-converted 737 operator follows a seven-year battle between Boeing and Airbus over the introduction of airplanes offering bold new fuel savings.
The introduction of the Max, an upgrade of earlier 737 models with advanced new engines, coincided with a bitter contest for market share between Boeing and Europe’s Airbus, which was offering its similar A320neo.
The feud saw both plane makers use the transition to a new generation of jets to try to poach each other’s customers, and traders said Air Canada’s 2013 decision to switch from Airbus’s A320 family to Boeing’s 737 Max stood out as a major defection.
Now, the decision to switch suppliers potentially weighs on some of those same airlines as they cope without a 737 fleet.
Boeing has predicted that the 737 Max will be cleared to take passengers early next quarter.
The FAA, facing growing international scrutiny over its certification processes, has said it cannot give a precise date for the approval of software and training changes carried out in the wake of the two accidents, which killed 346 people.
FAA chief Stephen Dickson plans to fly to Seattle this week to test modified 737 Max software in a simulator.
MONTREAL, Sept. 10, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada announced today it will upgrade its non-stop flights from Ottawa to London-Heathrow to operate the daily service with its state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Beginning next spring, customers travelling between Ottawa and London-Heathrow will have the option to fly in Air Canada’s Signature cabin, featuring fully lie-flat suites, as well as the added choice of a Premium Economy cabin.
“Air Canada is pleased to offer customers travelling between Ottawa and London-Heathrow the added comfort of service aboard our flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Customers love this aircraft whose revolutionary design improves the on-board air quality, which, combined with other features such as our next generation cabin, mood lighting and other amenities, mitigates jet lag. As a result, customers arrive better rested to hit the ground running for either business or pleasure. With the Dreamliner, we are also now offering customers flying between Ottawa and London the additional option of Air Canada’s Premium Economy cabin,” said Mark Galardo, Vice President, Network Planning at Air Canada.
The 255-seat Boeing 787-8, configured in three cabins of service, will be dedicated year-round to the route beginning March 29, 2020. It will replace a 211-seat Boeing 767-300ER with two cabins of service.
Also today, Air Canada announced it is suspending its summer seasonal, Ottawa-Frankfurt service. The last flight on this route will be operated on October 24, 2019. Customers travelling to Europe from Ottawa next summer will have an additional option to fly to Frankfurt on a new seasonal service provided by our Star Alliance partner Lufthansa, which will begin operating on May 16th, 2020 and end October 24, 2020.
Flights to Phoenix, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta affected, not known when flights will return to normal
CBC News · Posted: Sep 10, 2019
Saskatchewan travellers looking to fly south for the winter this year might be in for a bumpy ride.
This week, WestJet announced flight cancellations from airports in Regina and Saskatoon.
The company blamed the disruptions on Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jets. The planes were pulled from service by Transport Canada after 346 people were killed in crashes involving Indonesia’s Lion Air in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines in March of this year. Both incidents involved the Max 8.
“Guests who hold a current reservation impacted by this update will be notified proactively if there are changes to their itinerary,” wrote WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell. “Where possible, we will work to substitute other aircraft directly onto a route and will not impact a guests itinerary so notifications will not be necessary.”
The following flights will be affected:
Saskatoon-Phoenix: Three weekly flights suspended.
Regina-Orlando: One weekly flight suspended.
Regina-Phoenix: Three weekly flights suspended.
Regina-Cancun: suspended one weekly flight in November. WestJet will operate one weekly flight in December.
Regina–Puerto Vallarta: One weekly flight suspended. WestJet will continue to operate once weekly in November. Two weekly flights will be suspended in December.
Air Canada and Sunwing had already announced plans to pull all Max 8s from its schedule until next year.
WestJet said the suspensions are temporary and that flights will resume once the Max 8 is cleared to return to service. However, that won’t happen until January 5, at the earliest.
Transport Canada hasn’t said when the ban will be lifted.
Boeing says a system designed to help keep the Max 8 stable seemed to be a factor in each crash.
Many other governing bodies, including China, the United States and the European aviation authority, have banned the planes from their airspace.
WestJet currently owns 13 Max 8 jets, accounting for 10 per cent of its fleet.
Many other flights from Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto have also been affected.
WestJet is temporarily cancelling some direct hot holiday destination flights due to continued grounding issues with Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
Four Regina routes are being affected by the move, with scheduling changes set to run Nov. 4, 2019, to Jan. 5, 2020, unless otherwise specified.
Regina’s once-weekly flight to Orlando, Fla., and three weekly flights to Phoenix, Ariz., are suspended.
The once-weekly flight from Regina to Cancun, Mexico, will be suspended for November, but WestJet plans to operate weekly flights in December.
The Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, routes will see one weekly flight suspended, but WestJet will continue to offer one trip a week for November. However, the two weekly flights will be suspended in December.
According to WestJet, there is no timeline on when MAX planes will return to their fleet, and this change is being made to limit last-minute cancellations.
The company said they are proactively notifying passengers about the need to rebook travel options. This began on September 8.
The plan is to resume these routes once MAX planes return to the fleet, according to WestJet.
This is the sixth time WestJet has made these kinds of nationwide schedule changes involving MAX aircraft since March 13.
Edmonton, Alberta, Sept. 05, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Flair Airlines, Canada’s only truly independent low cost airline, is pleased to report an average passenger load factor of 92% for July & August 2019.
“We are delighted with the rapidly growing number of Canadians who have flocked to Flair this summer” said CEO Jim Scott. He continued ,“After only one year as an exclusively scheduled carrier we have established Flair as the place to go for low fares, great service and are already recognizing many return customers.”
During the summer, Edmonton-based Flair flew from Vancouver, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax. Flair successfully initiated daily non-stop service between Toronto (YYZ) and Vancouver as well as between Toronto and Calgary.
Over the last few months, as part of it’s fleet renewal program, Flair has added three newer Boeing 737-800NG aircraft and is gradually phasing out it’s older B737-400’s. All three additions sport Flair’s distinctive new livery and logo.
By next summer Flair plans to be operating a single-type fleet of B737-800 NG‘s, which are more fuel efficient and also have longer range capabilities. Flair’s unified fleet will open up a number of exciting southern destinations offered at accessible rates.
While Flair’s year-to-date on-time performance has been one of the best in Canada, the younger aircraft should serve to make it even better.
Air Canada, Sunwing and now WestJet have said they won’t be flying their Max 8 planes this year
CBC News · Posted: Sep 05, 2019
Calgary-based WestJet has announced it will keep its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft out of service during its winter schedule from Nov. 4 to Jan. 5, making it the latest Canadian carrier to commit to keeping the planes grounded until early 2020, at least.
Transport Canada has yet to give the jets permission to fly after Max 8 planes were grounded across the world in March, following two fatal crashes.
WestJet says the changes will show up on its website starting Sept. 8 and those with reservations affected by the update will be notified of any changes to their itinerary.
Air Canada and Sunwing Airlines have already announced they won’t be flying their Max 8 planes until next year.
Travel agent Lesley Keyter says those with bookings that might be affected should be diligent about keeping up to date on the status of their flights.
“If they’ve booked it directly, themselves, with the airline, they need to keep an eye out, keep their booking number, keep going to the website, keep checking their flights,” she said.
She also advised to make sure your email is entered properly with the airline’s booking system so that you receive any notifications that they send.
WestJet says it will work to substitute other aircraft, where possible, and notes it has maintained 98 per cent of total, planned departures since the Max 8 planes were grounded.
Aviation analyst Rick Erickson isn’t expecting major disruptions.
“They’ve been doing this all throughout the whole of the summer,” he said. “That means that they’re fairly well equipped to be able to operate with the challenge of quite a few number of seats no longer in their network.”
There’s still been no word on when the Max 8 might be recertified to fly in Canadian airspace.
Decision means no Canadian airlines expected to use aircraft until 2020 even if it’s cleared to fly
Ian Hanomansing · CBC News · Sep 04, 2019
Forty one aircraft, three Canadian airlines and almost six months out of service. The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 is affecting Canadian flights from coast to coast, and for Westjet passengers it’s now clear that impact will continue through the busy end-of-year holiday season.
Transport Canada has not yet given the jets permission to fly, but even if it does so before the end of the year, CBC News has learned Westjet will not be including the Max 8 jets in its holiday-season schedule, one of the peak travel times of the year.
Air Canada and Sunwing had already announced they won’t be flying their Max 8s until next year.
It’s possible the Boeing jets may be recertified to fly before the end of 2019 — Transport Canada isn’t saying when that might happen. But Brian Znotins, Westjet’s vice-president in charge of scheduling at the company’s headquarters in Calgary, says his airline made the decision because it needed to give passengers some certainty in making holiday bookings.
If the Max 8 is allowed to fly in December, at most Znotins says the airline might consider an occasional flight to ease demand.
“It’s a little harder to unmix the cake at that point, but we would look at peak days, the Friday before Christmas [for example] where we can still sell seats and we’ll put the airplane back in.”
Until now, very little has been heard from Canadian airlines about the ongoing impact of the Max 8’s problems. But Westjet agreed to talk to CBC’s The National about the effects of the grounding on the airline’s operations.
The issue with the Max 8 began with two disasters: A total of 346 people killed in crashes involving Indonesia’s Lion Air in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines in March of this year.
Investigators were troubled by the similarity between the crashes. Pilots on both planes appeared to be struggling to maintain control of their aircraft when they went down.
Boeing has acknowledged the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), designed to activate automatically to help keep a plane stable, seemed to be a factor in each crash. It appears erroneous air speed data triggered MCAS, which tried to push the nose of the jet down to increase speed while the pilots fought to counteract it.
In the days after the first crash on Oct. 29, 2018, some U.S. pilots complained Boeing hadn’t revealed that MCAS was embedded in the Max 8’s software. Speaking publicly for the first time on this issue, Westjet’s vice-president of flight operations, Scott Wilson, told CBC News that Westjet shared that concern.
“Our job as pilots is to know and understand the aircraft so that we can apply that knowledge in a normal and not normal situation,” he says. Not being told about MCAS, “created a bit of a trust deficit. There’s no doubt about it.”
Wilson adds that he made that erosion of trust clear to Boeing. “Absolutely. And they are well aware they’ve got to basically rebuild that gap.”
After the Lion Air disaster, he says the three Canadian airlines that fly the Max 8 worked with Boeing and Transport Canada to review pilot training and procedures, what Wilson called “a made-in-Canada solution.” He adds that the airlines were confident its pilots could fly the jet safely as a result.
But then on March 10 came the second catastrophic crash, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Within hours, Wilson says Transport Canada was again in contact with Air Canada, Sunwing and Westjet, sharing information about the tragedy and assessing the safety of the jets.
“Obviously we’d never move an aircraft ever without a 100-per-cent assurance of its safety … and the information that we had at the time led us to believe that at that moment, that there was no increased risk to operating the aircraft,” Wilson says.
But governments around the world began taking action. The day after the Ethiopian crash, China banned the Max 8 from its airspace, and the next day the European aviation authority did the same. Three days after the crash, Canada and then the United States followed suit.
At the time, Canada’s Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said there was new satellite data on the Ethiopian crash, “suggesting a possible although unproven similarity in the flight profile of the Lion Air aircraft.”
Wilson explains that the data appeared to show that MCAS played a role in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines disasters. It wasn’t conclusive, but it was enough to ban the Max from carrying passengers in Canadian airspace.
All Boeing 737 Max 8s — about 350 planes flown by more than 50 airlines around the world — have been grounded ever since, as the manufacturer works to fix the problem and prove to aviation officials that the aircraft is safe.
For Westjet, the grounding has left 13 jets parked at airports from Vancouver to Toronto, about 10 per cent of the airline’s seats. That has created an ongoing challenge for the airline’s schedulers and maintenance team.
The person in charge of maintenance, John Kelly, says his airline’s Max 8s are essentially ready to fly — their fluids are checked every 48 hours, and once a week each jet is powered up, taxis and then is parked again.
Westjet’s vice-president of technical operations, John Kelly, takes CBC’s Ian Hanomansing into the wheel well of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 to explain how the airline is keeping the aircraft flight-ready while they’re grounded. 0:40
Standing in the gleaming Westjet hanger in Calgary, Kelly explained that the biggest challenge in this grounding hasn’t been the maintenance involved in keeping the Max 8s on standby, but the need to get more hours from the rest of the airline’s fleet.
“We pulled some planes out of heavy maintenance to help fly the schedule. We’re doing a lot more work on the other airplanes to keep them healthy and keep them flying.”
Among the work that’s been deferred is the job of putting new seats in Premium class of the airline’s older 737s, for example.
Making planes available is just the first part of the puzzle. Then comes reworking the flight schedule.
If you want a sense of the complexity of running an airline, walk through its operations centre. For Westjet it’s a room about the size of a gymnasium, filled with people tracking planes, watching the weather and calculating flight plans. When CBC News visited the centre, one of the scheduling issues the team was dealing with was fog in Prince George that had led to a two hour delay, which in turn affected that plane’s upcoming Vancouver-Victoria-Vancouver trip.
Weather problems are a fact of life for airlines. The impact of removing 13 jets for an indefinite period is infinitely more complicated.
That’s been the responsibility of Brian Znotins. With the uncertainty over when the jets will be returned to service, he has revised the airline’s flight schedule five times.
He compares the process to building a house. “You take away 7 per cent of the bricks and you still want to build that house and you have to get pretty creative.”
In a July 29 interview, WestJet chief executive Ed Sims told CBC News that the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 is having a “substantial negative impact” on the airline. He declined to give specifics on the financial hit, but said the grounding has forced WestJet to increase spending on fuel and cut routes.
One summer route — Halifax to Paris — was cancelled for the season, for example. A direct flight from Vancouver to Regina has also been suspended. Some daytime flights have been moved to overnight. But with its older 737s flying more often, Znotins says Westjet has been able to maintain 98 per cent of what would have been its schedule with the Max 8s in the air.
It’s a similar story at Air Canada. The bigger airline had a fleet of 24 Max 8s, and was expecting 12 more by the end of June. Asked about the impact of the grounding on its operations, Air Canada directed CBC to its most recent quarterly report, which states the airline has managed to cover “97 per cent of our planned flying” without those aircraft.
Aviation analyst Rick Ericksen says he’s impressed with how Canadian airlines are coping and how all three have handled the grounding. But he says that aside from the lost revenue, the airlines have very little excess aircraft capacity left at the moment to deal with any other problems that may arise.
All Transport Canada will say is that it “will not lift the current flight restriction … until it is fully satisfied that all concerns have been addressed by the manufacturer and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and adequate flight crew procedures and training are in place.”
Air Canada has announced it won’t fly the Max 8 any sooner than Jan. 8, 2020.
For Sunwing, it’s May.
Westjet may be the best positioned of the three Canadian airlines to get the Max 8s up quickly once the flight restriction is lifted. Its Max pilots have been active, flying the airline’s older-model 737s. Kelly, in charge of maintenance, says after a software update the Max 8s should be ready to fly.
But vice-president of flight operations Scott Wilson concedes there is another challenge the airlines will face: attracting passengers who may be reluctant to fly on a plane that’s suffered two recent crashes.
28 August 2019 by Allison Lampert, Montreal, Reuters
A global shortage of pilots and mechanics is preventing some Canadian aviation service companies from meeting the needs of airlines and other customers scrambling to secure replacements for grounded Boeing 737 Max jets.
North American airlines have cancelled thousands of flights since the March grounding of the 737 Max following two fatal crashes involving the model. In an already busy industry, this has stoked demand for replacement aircraft, and several Canadian companies are eager to oblige.
But the industry-wide labour shortage has complicated matters, companies said.
“I have the planes but I don’t have enough pilots to do all the flights,” said Marco Prud’Homme, vice-president of Montreal-area Nolinor Aviation.
The charter company has had to refuse some of the surging number of client requests in the wake of the Max grounding because of the pilot shortage.
Globally, many large lessors and aftermarket service providers who do plane maintenance have generally seen muted impact from the grounding because they are already fully booked, analysts and executives say.
The aviation industry has long been wrestling with a shortage of pilots and mechanics. A 2017 report by training company CAE forecasts the need for an extra 255,000 pilots by 2027 to sustain passenger traffic which is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Stephen Lim, president of ST Engineering Aerospace America, said by e-mail that any longer-term upward pressure on MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) pricing could “come from increasing labour costs, primarily due to an industry-wide shortage of experienced mechanics.”
In Canada, labour concerns have emerged in the province of Quebec, home to most of Canada’s aviation industry.
When the provincial government announced plans to scale back accepted immigrants by 20 per cent this year, as part of a broader system overhaul, employers’ groups warned it could make it harder to fill vacancies in multiple sectors.
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According to an August report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Quebec had a job vacancy rate of 3.2 per cent, one of the highest in the country alongside British Columbia. Canada’s overall unemployment rate edged up to 5.7 per cent in July after slipping to 5.4 per cent in May – its lowest recorded rate since comparable data became available in 1976.
Earl Diamond, chief executive of Avianor, which specializes in aircraft maintenance and cabin integration, said meeting rising demand from clients hinges on staffing and space, which are at a premium in the company’s bustling Montreal-area facility.
A recent spate of airline bankruptcies from India to Iceland, combined with the Max grounding, have thrust privately held Avianor into the centre of the scramble for replacement planes.
The company is removing the purple seat covers and carpets from an A320 formerly operated by now defunct WOW Air of Iceland, and reconfiguring the cabin for Air Canada’s leisure carrier Rouge.
“For them it’s getting the planes into their fleets as soon as possible,” Diamond told Reuters during a recent visit to the company’s facility.
To meet higher-than-usual demand from lessors and airlines, Avianor had to call back some of its workers from vacation this summer, Diamond said.
Avianor is trying to add another 70 workers, and had already taken on temporary labour from Mexico to supplement its existing staff of 400 employees.
In Quebec, aviation companies are taking steps to find workers, with Nolinor holding a Sept. 7 career day to attract mechanics. The company has also offered to fund the $100,000 retraining cost for each of two employees chosen to become pilots, Prud’Homme said.
“It’s one of the biggest problems we have in the industry.”
Shares of Boeing jumped on Thursday after Reuters reported that the planemaker plans to ramp-up production of its grounded 737 MAX jet to record levels by June 2020, as it anticipates regulatory approval.
Boeing Co.‘s chief executive said on Tuesday that the financial fallout from the grounding of its 737 MAX jetliner would not slow the world’s largest planemaker’s appetite for deals in the higher-margin aircraft services sector.
“Our ability to do those continues to be strong,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told Reuters at the company’s widebody manufacturing plant north of Seattle, referring to acquisitions it has made to enlarge its two-year-old Global Services division.
WATCH: July 30 —Air Canada to keep Boeing 737 MAX planes grounded until at least January, WestJet until November
“We have the financial capacity to manage the MAX situation and continue to make our investments for the future,” he said.
Boeing‘s fastest-selling, single-aisle jet was grounded in March after two deadly crashes. The company is working on a fix for software at the centre of both crashes and is aiming to get the jet back in the air as soon as October. It has completed around 560 flights with the new software, Muilenburg said on Tuesday.
“We still anticipate getting the return-to-service early in the fourth quarter,” Muilenburg said. “We are making progress on that schedule.”
Meanwhile, Muilenburg aims to expand the services business that includes aircraft parts, maintenance and analytics to $50 billion in revenue in a decade from its 2018 revenue of about $17 billion.
Boeing bought parts distributor KLX Inc. last year for $4.25 billion, including debt, in its largest deal since merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Boeing and rival Airbus SE are pushing into the market for repairs, maintenance and analytics as airlines consider outsourcing more of such services in an effort to keep a lid on costs.
Boeing has had to divert resources to the 737 MAX from across the company as it works to win approval from aviation regulators for its software upgrade.
In April, Boeing dropped production to the current rate of 42 aircraft per month after halting deliveries of the MAX to airlines, cutting off a key source of cash and hitting margins. The total cost of the 737 MAX crisis has grown to more than $8 billion and counting.
Reuters reported last week that Boeing told suppliers it will ramp back up to pre-crash production rates of 52 aircraft per month in February and reach a record 57 aircraft per month in June. Investors took that as a sign of optimism that the MAX will fly again commercially as early as October.
WATCH: July 15 —How grounding of Boeing MAX aircraft impacted passenger’s bill of rights
“We are also working with our supply chain on future rates,” Muilenburg said on Tuesday. “This is all consistent with that October return-to-service date.”
However, Muilenburg reiterated the timeline for rate increases and the return to service is in the hands of regulators, who will decide when the MAX can fly again commercially.
Although the MAX issue has diverted engineering resources and attention from other aircraft programs, Muilenburg said development work on a potential new middle-of-the-market aircraft, or NMA, “hasn’t been halted.”
“We have major risk reduction activities underway that are helping us protect the entry-into-service target date that we talked about,” he said, referring to an entry-into-service date of 2025. “We are still on that same macro path. We will make that decision when we are ready.”
Boeing‘s plane must enter the market in 2025, when airlines will be retiring Boeing 757s and 767s, with Airbus poised to scoop up new plane orders.
Muilenburg also said on Tuesday that an aircraft order from China could result from any deal to end a yearlong trade war between the U.S and China, the world’s two largest economies.
23 August 2019 by Julie Johnsson, Alan Levin and Richard Weiss, Bloomberg News
(Bloomberg) — The Federal Aviation Administration is likely to conduct its certification flight for Boeing Co.’s 737 Max in October, a key milestone toward returning the grounded jetliner to the skies, said people briefed on the matter.
That timing would be broadly consistent with Boeing’s estimate that the Max will return to service early in the fourth quarter, but may push the submission of a final certification package slightly beyond September, as the company previously estimated.
The U.S. planemaker is testing changes to the flight-control software architecture of its best-selling jetliner, which suffered two fatal crashes in a five-month span. Boeing engineers have almost worked their way through hundreds of queries fielded by the FAA from colleagues around the world, with few new concerns being raised at this point in the process, the people said.
The Chicago-based company is also briefing customers on its plans for unwinding an unprecedented global grounding that has already surpassed five months, with about 600 planes temporarily mothballed.
“We continue to support the FAA and global regulators on the safe return of the Max to service,” Boeing said in a statement.
The FAA is focused on ensuring that the revamped 737 Max systems meet safety requirements, and doesn’t have a timeline for returning the plane to service, according to a statement by the agency. FAA employees have already spent 110,000 hours working on the project, it said.
“The FAA’s certification of the Boeing 737 Max is the subject of several independent reviews and investigations that will examine all aspects of the five-year effort,” the agency said. “While the agency’s certification processes are well established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs, we welcome the scrutiny from these experts and look forward to their findings.”
There are still numerous tasks to be accomplished before Boeing can complete its submission to recertify the plane, said another person familiar with the process. The person wasn’t aware of a specific projection that the FAA test flight would occur in October, but said it was a possibility.
A certification flight with FAA test pilots is one of the final steps that must be conducted before Boeing’s submission is finalized, and based on the timing, the final paperwork may not be completed until the fourth quarter.
If the plane behaves as expected, the results become part of the package for certification. Even though FAA engineers have worked closely with Boeing for months, the agency must perform a series of checks after the submission is made before granting approval.
Another step in the process is a review by the FAA’s Flight Standardization Board, which must recommend training requirements for the plane. In April, it made a preliminary conclusion that pilots wouldn’t need simulator training before flights resume. But the body hasn’t issued its final conclusions.