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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Boeing says 737 Max expected to resume flying in January

Grounded airliner must still pass four tests before it can be certified to fly again
Dozens of grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crowd a parking area adjacent to Boeing Field in Seattle. AP

Boeing on Monday said it expected the 737 Max airliner, which was grounded after two crashes killed 346 people, to resume flying in January, delaying its return by a month.

The group said it still hoped to receive certification from the Federal Aviation Administration next month, allowing it to resume Max deliveries 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," the aviation company said.

It had originally planned for the model to resume flying in December.

The planes have been grounded globally since mid-March, after a Lion Air flight crashed in October 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines crash in March this year.

The grounding has dragged on far beyond initial expectations, with Boeing upgrading systems and facing questions from regulators and politicians over the plane.

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines on Friday again pushed back their estimate for resuming flights on the 737 Max, this time until early March.

Boeing said on Monday it had completed a simulator evaluation with the FAA to "ensure the overall software system performs its intended function', the first of five milestones the aircraft must meet before returning to service.

The group said it still needed to run a separate simulator session over several days with airline pilots to "assess human factors and crew workload under various test conditions".

FAA pilots will then conduct a certification flight of the final updated software.

Boeing has notably changed the aircraft's Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, an anti-stall mechanism that pilots in both crashes struggled to control as the jets went down.

Boeing will then submit to the FAA all the necessary material to support software certification.

The final step before resuming commercial flights is an evaluation by a multi-regulatory body to validate training requirements.

After this, Boeing said, a report would be released for public comment before final approval of the training.

"At each step of this process Boeing has worked closely with the FAA and other regulators," it said.

Updated: November 12, 2019 12:30 AM