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Boeing doesn’t expect clearance of Max by federal regulators until summer

Boeing stated Tuesday that it has no expectation if federal regulators will approve its changes to the grounded 737 Max until this summer, several months longer than the company was telling only a few weeks ago.

That timetable — the recent of several delays in the plane’s approval process — will cause more troubles for airlines by pushing the Max’s return further into the peak summer travel season or probably beyond it.

Boeing shares dropped almost 6% at one point, to a 52-week low, and shut at 3.4%.

The company stated regulators will make a decision on when the Max flies again but that it periodically gives airlines and providers its best estimate of when that will occur.

“This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process,” Boeing stated. “It is subject to our continued attempts to address known schedule risks and further developments that may arise in relation to the certification process. It also accounts for the rigorous scrutiny that regulatory officials are rightly applying at every step of their review” of the plane’s flight controls and pilot-training requirements.

The recent timetable is based on work remaining to be completed before the Federal Aviation Administration will permit the Max back in the sky including work on flight-control computers, according to two individuals knowledgeable with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information that Boeing did not provide.

The FAA stated that it is carrying out a thorough, deliberate process to ensure that Boeing’s modifications to the Max meet certification standards. The agency stated as it has for months, that it has no timetable for finishing its review.

Southwest, American and United, the three U.S. airlines which own Maxes, have scrubbed the plane from their plans until early June. It is possible, however, that they won’t make use of the planes until much later, possibly after the busy summer travel season is finished.

Even after the FAA certifies Boeing’s work, airlines will require several more weeks to plan their grounded planes and train pilots. After long insisting that training could be done sooner on tablets, Boeing has now reversed course and recommended that pilots go through sessions on flight simulators prior to their operation on the plane, adding more time to airline preparations.

Right after the first Max crash in October 2018 in Indonesia, Boeing started updating software that investigators state was triggered by a defective sensor and pushed the plane’s nose down. Then in March 2019, another Max was crashed in Ethiopia. Overall, 346 people died.

Boeing has made the software less powerful and connected it to two sensors instead of single. That work was done months ago, but the company continues to work on changes to flight-control computers and pilot-training methods. Another software issue was found last week, although one of the people knowledgeable about the situation stated it would not cause more delay in the plane’s return.

Shares of Boeing Co. dropped $10.87 to close at $313.28. Trading was briefly stopped before the company issued its announcement regarding the Max.

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