NEW YORK • Boeing says it expects the 737 Max airplane, which was grounded after two crashes which killed 346 people, to resume flying in January, delaying its return by one month.
In a statement issued on Monday, the group said it still hopes to receive certification next month from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allowing it to resume Max deliveries to airline customers before the end of the year. "In parallel, we are working towards final validation of the updated training requirements, which must occur before the Max returns to commercial service, and which we now expect to begin in January," Boeing said.
It had previously planned for the plane to resume flying in December. The 737 Max planes have been grounded globally since mid-March, following the deadly Lion Air crash in October last year and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March this year.
Companies also need to take into account the time needed to train pilots and install modified software on the aircraft before they can re-enter regular service.
Boeing also said on Monday that it has completed the first of five milestones it must meet before returning the Max to service: a multi-day simulator evaluation with the FAA to "ensure the overall software system performs its intended function".
The group said it still needs to run a separate, multi-day simulator session with airline pilots to "assess human factors and crew workload under various test conditions", before FAA pilots conduct a certification flight of the final updated software.
Boeing has notably changed the aircraft's manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), an anti-stall mechanism that pilots in both fatal crashes had struggled to control as their jets careered downwards.
Boeing will then submit to the FAA all the necessary materials to support software certification.
The final key step before the resumption of commercial flights is an evaluation by a multi-regulatory body to validate training requirements. After this, Boeing said, a report will be released for a public comment period, followed by final approval of the training.
The 737 Max crisis is one of the most serious in Boeing's 103-year history, and has already cost the company tens of billions of dollars.