The US Federal Aviation Administration is reportedly in the final stages of reviewing the proposed safety changes to Boeing’s embattled 737 MAX, which could see the plane un-grounded as soon as 18 November.
FAA chief administrator Steve Dickson reportedly informed Reuters that the review process is expected to be completed within the “coming days”, and that the FAA will likely be lifting its 19-month grounding order on the MAX shortly after.
Final approval will be provided “once the agency is satisfied” that Boeing has addressed all safety concerns with the aircraft, which resulted in two fatal crashes that killed 346 people in total.
The news comes as regulators around the world close in on decisions that will likely see the plane return to service for commercial flights, with decisions also expected in the coming days according to sources.
While a global un-grounding will be a critical step for Boeing, its path to recovery is far from over, as the planemaker continues to reel from the COVID-19 crisis and the fallout of its 737 MAX fiasco.
“The FAA continues to engage with aviation authorities around the world as they prepare to validate our certification decision,” Dickson said.
“As I have said many times before, the agency will take the time that it needs to thoroughly review the remaining work. Even though we are near the finish line, I will lift the grounding order only after our safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards.”
Following the FAA green light, airlines will be required to complete mandatory software updates, as well as provide fresh training for pilots, a process that will likely take at least 30 days, before the planes will return to the skies.
Southwest Airlines, the world’s largest MAX operator, has reportedly said it would take the airline several months to comply with the FAA requirements and has not planned to schedule any flights on the aircraft until the second quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile, the ongoing grounding of the jet has cost Boeing billions in undeliverable jets and halted new orders across its range.
Over 1,000 737 MAX aircraft alone have been removed from Boeing’s backlog so far this year, due to outright cancellations or delayed deliveries that are unlikely to be filled.
Currently, there are 3,357 MAX jets on order, however future cancellations could see this number drop.
Further, the disastrous oversight by both Boeing and the FAA have also triggered federal investigations, with lawmakers pushing for changes to the certification process.
A Justice Department criminal investigation is still ongoing.