Boeing 737 Max could be grounded for months, says airline body

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Reuters

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Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg says steady progress is being made to get the 737 Max back into the skies

Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft is unlikely to re-enter service before August, according to the head of the airline industry’s trade body, IATA.

Director General Alexandre de Juniac said “we do not expect something before 10 or 12 weeks”, although he added a final decision was up to regulators.

The aircraft was grounded globally in March after two crashes within months.

Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg said on Wednesday, “we’re making steady progress” on a return to service.

And Bloomberg reported that Boeing had told one of its biggest customers for the aircraft that it would back in service by early July.

The aircraft was grounded by regulators worldwide after 157 people were killed when an Ethiopian Airlines’ 737 Max crashed. Five months previously a Lion Air 737 Max crashed, claiming 189 lives.

Mr de Juniac told reporters in Seoul on Wednesday that IATA was organising a summit with airlines, regulators and Boeing in five-to-seven weeks to discuss what is needed for the 737 Max to return to service, he said.

He hoped that regulators can “align their timeframe” on when the aircraft will be back in the skies.

US operators United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines have removed the 737 Max from their flight schedules until early to mid-August.

Mr Muilenburg, speaking at an investor conference, said that the “long-term prospects and production demand for the 737 Max has not changed”.

He said Boeing continues to expect to ramp-up its long-term production rate to 57 a 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 [US regulator],” he said.