Boeing rose after U.S. aviation regulators said the company is making strides in its work to fix the 737 Max, stirring hopes that the grounded plane is closer to flying again.
The Federal Aviation Administration “is pleased with Boeing’s progress in recent weeks toward achieving key milestones,” the agency said in a statement Friday. The FAA commented after its leader, Steve Dickson, spoke with U.S. airlines.
The FAA’s tone marked a dramatic shift from a month ago, when the regulator chastised Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chief executive officer at the time, for a lack of “quality and timeliness of data submittals” regarding the Max. Muilenburg was ousted shortly after that and was replaced this month by longtime board member Dave Calhoun.
The FAA’s work to recertify the 737 Max and revise its training requirements could be completed as soon as mid-spring, said one person briefed on the discussions who wasn’t authorized to speak about it. However, nothing is certain about timing on the process that has been so frequently delayed over the past year, said the person.
The date when airlines resume operations with the plane could be weeks or months later. Carriers will have to perform special maintenance routines on each of the dormant planes, revise their operating procedures and retrain their pilot groups.
Boeing said earlier this week that it expects the Max to return to service in mid-2020, months later than earlier projections by the company. The single-aisle jet has been grounded worldwide since March 13, three days after the second of two deadly crashes linked to a flight-control system.
Boeing rose 1.7% to close at $323.05 in Friday trading, reversing losses sparked by a Bloomberg News report that the company is considering another cut to production of its 787 Dreamliner.
Dickson talked Friday with officials at the three U.S. airlines that fly the 737 Max, United Continental Holdings Inc., American Airlines Group Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co.
The FAA leader said Boeing’s latest estimate is conservative, according to people familiar with the matter. Without providing a specific time frame, the FAA chief said the plane could be re-certified before midyear, said the people, who asked not to be named because the conversation was private.
In its statement, FAA repeated its months-long stance that it has no deadline for when it will approve the plane to carry passengers.
There is no guarantee that additional delays won’t push back the schedule, but Boeing has completed several major steps in recent weeks that are giving regulators greater confidence, said the person.
An audit of the extensive software changes being made on the plane’s flight-control computer was was recently completed, said the person. The audit had taken months longer than anticipated. One of the key items that remains to be done is determining what level of flight training will be needed for the plane, both for pilots transitioning to the plane from earlier 737 models as well as ones who are new to the family of planes.Boeing earlier this month said it would support a requirement for simulator training for pilots transitioning from other 737 models to the Max, reversing its long-standing opposition to such training.Reuters reported earlier on the FAA’s communications with airlines.
With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein.