Boeing 737 MAX to stay grounded another few months

Global aviation official says troubled plane may not return to service until August, pending software updates, approval.

    Three 737 MAX jetliners sit parked on the tarmac at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Washington in the United States [Eric Johnson/Reuters]
    Three 737 MAX jetliners sit parked on the tarmac at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Washington in the United States [Eric Johnson/Reuters]

    Boeing Co's 737 MAX is unlikely to return to service before August, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.

    "We do not expect something before 10 to 12 weeks in re-entry into service," IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac told reporters in Seoul on Wednesday. "But it is not [in] our hands. That is in the hands of regulators."

    The 737 MAX was grounded globally in March after a crash in Ethiopia killed all 157 people on board, the model's second deadly crash in five months.

    IATA plans to organise a summit with airlines, aviation regulators and Boeing in five to seven weeks to discuss what is needed for the 737 MAX to return to service, the IATA's director said.

    The airline industry has had a tough six months, amidst rising fuel, labour and infrastructure costs. Trade tensions have also been increasing since the grounding of the 737 MAX.

    IATA's December forecast for $35.5bn in industry profits in 2019 is expected to be lowered in an update at its annual meeting in Seoul on June 2.

    At an IATA meeting for 737 MAX operators in Montreal last week, airline members said they wanted regulators to cooperate closely on the decision for the plane's re-entry to service.

    'Clear and steady progress'

    Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg on Wednesday reiterated that the planemaker was focused on safely returning the MAX aircraft to service.

    Speaking at a Bernstein conference in New York, Muilenburg said the company continues to expect to ramp up its long-term production rate to 57 aircraft per month after cutting monthly output to 42 planes in response to the groundings.

    "We're making clear and steady progress, and that includes the work that we're doing on the airplane update, the software update, working through the certification process with the FAA," he said.

    Sources have told the Reuters news agency that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects to approve the jet's return to service as soon as late June.

    United States operators Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines have removed the planes from their flight schedules until early to mid-August.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency