LONDON – U.S. Federal Aviation Administrator Steve Dickson said on Thursday international air safety regulators were likely to agree on the design fixes needed to return the Boeing 737 Max aircraft to service.
Dickson, the U.S. regulator who has responsibility for approving a return to service by the grounded 737 Max, said he wouldn’t put a timeframe on its return but that it would become easier to predict after its certification flight, which he said could come in the next few weeks.
The 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 after two fatal crashes that killed 346 people.
He said that international regulators including EASA might differ in terms of the operational return to service of the plane, but agreed on what needed to be fixed.
“On the design approval, from everything that I have seen I think we’ll have very solid alignment,” he told an airline industry event in London.
Boeing has said its best estimate is that the aircraft will not be back in the air until mid-2020, after endorsing simulator training for pilots before flights resume, and that regulators will determine the timing.
Last month, Dickson told senior U.S. airline officials that the FAA could approve the return of the aircraft before midyear, earlier than the plane-maker has suggested, according to people briefed on the call.
But in a visit to London he cautioned against putting a definitive timeline on the return of the Max.
“There is no timeframe, I don’t think it’s helpful to get out there with timeframes or timelines,” he told reporters at a briefing.
“For Boeing’s part, what I have been encouraging is to not make public announcements.”
The FAA and Boeing said in January they were reviewing a wiring issue that could potentially cause a short circuit on the grounded 737 Max.
Officials said the review was looking at whether two bundles of wiring are too close together, which could lead to a short circuit and potentially result in a crash if pilots did not respond appropriately.
“They have not given us a proposal on the wiring yet,” Dickson said.
“I wouldn’t say I’m worried. I want them to take whatever time they need to give us a fulsome and a data-driven proposal.”
He also said that the software audit had been completed, but there were “possible adjustments” to an annunciator light — a warning signal — and power to the displays.
“I don’t think that will be a significant delay,” he said.
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