10 | Flight International | 28 January-3 February 2020 flightglobal.com
oeing now expects the US
Federal Aviation Administra-
tion (FAA) to certificate the 737
Max in the middle of 2020,
marking another delay to the air-
craft’s flight approval – which
some observers had expected
would come early this year.
“We are informing our custom-
ers and suppliers that we are
currently estimating that the un-
grounding of the 737 Max will
begin mid-2020,” Boeing said on
21 January. “This estimate is in-
formed by our experience to date
with the certification process.”
Until December 2019, Boeing
had thought regulators would
clear the jet to fly before year-end.
But in December, FAA adminis-
trator Steve Dickson quashed
Boeing’s plan when he said too
much work remained unfinished
for a 2019 sign-off.
Since then, Boeing has shied
away from providing a timeline.
Some observers estimated certifi-
cation would come early in 2020,
perhaps in February, with a roll-
ing reintroduction of the Max into
ASSESSMENT JON HEMMERDINGER BOSTON
Return of the Max expected
in June, Boeing tells carriers
Airframer informs customers it now estimates FAA will re-certificate twinjet ‘mid-2020’
passenger service. Now the FAA’s
re-approval appears likely to
come several months later.
Boeing’s latest projection “ac-
counts for the rigorous scrutiny
that regulatory authorities are
rightly applying at every step of
their review of the 737 Max’s
flight-control system, and the Joint
Operations Evaluation Board
[JOEB] process, which determines
pilot training requirements,” the
The JOEB consists of crews
from multiple 737 Max operators
and has been tasked with evaluat-
ing training for the twinjet's pilots.
Although the board’s work is
incomplete, when finished, the
FAA’s Flight Standardisation
Board will use the findings to de-
velop pilot training recommenda-
tions, which will then be subject
to a public review.
The FAA says it has “set no
timeframe for when the work will
“The agency is following a thor-
ough, deliberate process to verify
that all proposed modifications to
the Boeing 737 Max meet the
highest certification standards,”
the FAA says. “We continue to
work with other safety regulators
to review Boeing’s work as the
company conducts the required
safety assessments and addresses
all issues that arise in testing.”
Meanwhile, United Airlines
has become the first Max custom-
er to announce that it will operate
without the aircraft during the
peak summer travel season.
“We continue to assume there
will be a safe return of the Max
and we’re encouraged at what we
hope is a more realistic timeline,”
the carrier’s president Scott Kirby
said on 22 January.
Chief commercial officer
Andrew Nocella adds: “We are
now assessing the impact to the
schedule, but don’t anticipate
flying the Max this summer.”
United had 14 737-8s in ser-
vice at the time of the grounding,
with another 16 now built but
undelivered at Boeing facilities.
The carrier says it sees no is-
sues with any additional training
requirements for its crews as it has
“ample simulator capacity”. ■
Additional reporting by Pilar
Wolfsteller in San Francisco
New chief executive Calhoun plans rapid return of production
Production of the 737 Max could
restart several months before
mid-year and ahead of the twin-
jet’s return to service, meaning
the assembly line could be reacti-
vated within three months, the
airframer’s new chief executive
David Calhoun says.
“Production will start...
months before that moment in
June, because we have to get
that line started up again,”
Calhoun revealed on 22 January.
By “moment in June”, Calhoun
seemingly refers to Boeing’s mid-
year projection for certification of
the 737 Max, which has been
grounded since 13 March 2019.
“And the supply chain will be
reinvigorated even before that,”
Calhoun adds. “We are going to
slowly, steadily bring our produc-
tion rate up a few months before
the... middle of the year.”
Calhoun clarifies that final as-
sembly could start within three
months and insists Boeing has no
plans to lay off workers.
His comments came nine days
after Calhoun stepped into the
Boeing chief executive’s office
and several days after the com-
pany halted 737 Max production.
Calhoun says the return-to-
service timeline reflects Boeing’s
decision to recommend that
pilots undergo simulator training
- guidance the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) seems
almost certain to adopt.
“That was always going to
elongate return-to-service,” says
Calhoun, adding that the new
timeline provides sufficient time
“for discourse with our regulator
at every level”.
Since taking Boeing’s helm,
Calhoun has talked with “most”
of Boeing’s big customers and
attended meetings at the
Pentagon and White House and
with the FAA, he says.
He also pledges a new era of
openness and transparency with
regulators and the press.
In the immediate future,
Boeing will primarily focus on its
existing products, starting with
the Max, and on improving safety
and engineering, with less imme-
diate attention on future projects.
But he insists Boeing is not
“running from research” and
although it “might reprioritise”
development projects, “we are
not ripping them up”. ■
Some observers believed grounding order could be lifted soon, but safety authority has ‘set no timeline’