Boeing has begun telling customers and suppliers that it believes the 737 Max will not start flying again in service until mid-2020, an estimate informed by what the company called its “experience with the certification process.” The company added that the estimate remains subject to ongoing attempts to address “known schedule risks” and warned that further developments might arise that could affect the certification process. “It also accounts 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 process which determines pilot training requirements,” the company said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“As we have emphasized, the FAA and other global regulators will determine when the 737 Max returns to service,” said the statement. “However, in order to help our customers and suppliers plan their operations, we periodically provide them with our best estimate of when regulators will begin to authorize the ungrounding of the 737 Max.
“Returning the Max safely to service is our number one priority, and we are confident that will happen. We acknowledge and regret the continued difficulties that the grounding of the 737 Max has presented to our customers, our regulators, our suppliers, and the flying public.”
The company said it would provide more information about its efforts to return the Max to service on January 29, when it issues its quarterly financial disclosures.
Boeing issued the statement soon after CNBC reported that sources revealed that the company moved its target for service re-entry to June or July.
All three U.S. airlines that flew the Max—American, United, and Southwest Airlines—recently changed their schedules to reflect a return to service no earlier than June.
Boeing had originally estimated the Max would return to service by the end of 2019, then more recently targeted the first quarter of this year.
The company’s Tuesday disclosure comes less than a week after the Department of Transportation issued a report by a special committee formed to investigate FAA certification processes and procedures found them generally effective. However, the panel cited an opportunity for improvement in “multiple areas” and called for a requirement for manufacturers to adopt safety management systems. The committee, formed last April by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, outlines “numerous” consensus findings and more than a dozen unanimous recommendations.