The main US air transport regulator frustrated Boeing’s hopes Wednesday that its 737 MAX would fly again this year, nine months after banning the circulation of those planes that staged two fatal accidents in October 2018 and March 2019.
In an interview prior to a hearing in the United States Congress, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Steve Dickson, told CNBC that the plane will not be authorized to fly before 2020.
The process to approve the return of the MAX to the skies still has 10 or 11 milestones to complete, including a certification flight and a period of public discussions about the pilot training requirements, Dickson said: “If you do the calculations, it will be extended until 2020”.
The MAX has been on the ground since March after the second of the two accidents that killed a total of 346 people.
Boeing aspired to obtain regulatory approval this month, and for flights to resume in January.
Dickson, however, clarified: “I have made it very clear that Boeing’s plan is not the FAA’s plan.” He added: “We are going to keep our heads down and support the team so that this report is done well.”
Many of the questions of the FAA House of Representatives Transportation Committee focused on finding out why the agency did not act more forcefully after the first of the two 737 MAX air catastrophes.
Boeing and the FAA received much criticism after the accidents, for their response to problems with the aircraft, including the MCAS stabilization system.
Instead of suspending flights after the accident of the Lion Air airline in the Java Sea, in October 2018, the FAA decided to ask Boeing to review the MCAS under the supervision of the US air regulator.
The agency also gave some guidelines to the 737 MAX crew on how to respond to possible failures of the stabilization system, which the pilots had failed to control during the Lion Air catastrophe.
The figure is much higher than that of other airplanes and aeronautical experts consider it unacceptable.
Dickson, who arrived at the air regulator this summer after the two accidents, said he did not know who had read that internal report, but said that the agency’s decisions after what happened in the Java Sea were based on the data available to the FAA
“We didn’t know what the causes were” of the Lion Air accident, Dickson acknowledged.
“Obviously the result is not satisfactory,” he added when asked if the agency was wrong.
Congressman DeFazio replied that the FAA response had not only been unsatisfactory, but had been “catastrophic.”
The Transportation Committee will also question Edward Pierdon, a former Boeing official who had warned the senior airline officials that production problems were putting the plane’s safety at stake.
Michael Collins, a former FAA security engineer, who criticized the regulator’s decision to delegate some of his missions to Boeing, will also testify in Congress.