More than 30 aviation regulators from around the world will gather today to discuss when to let Boeing’s 737 Max jet take to the skies again.
Read more: Boeing completes 737 Max software update
The meeting will be led by the US regulator the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has been at the centre of talks surrounding the jet in recent months.
The plane, Boeing’s best-selling model ever, was grounded across the globe in March following a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash just months on from a similar Lion Air disaster in Indonesia which together killed 346 people.
Regulators from the UK, China, the European Union, Brazil and Canada will be at the meeting, where they will discuss a software fix Boeing has developed which the FAA must approve before the jet can take off again. It has to be approved in the US first because it is the country the jet was designed in.
But Boeing’s hopes it will be given a firm date on which to resume the plane’s operations were dampened yesterday as the acting head of the FAA said he refuses to be tied to a specific timetable to approve the plane for flight. “It’s a constant give and take until it is exactly right,” deputy FAA administrator Dan Elwell told reporters. “It’s taking as long as it takes to be right. I’m not tied to a timetable.”
Responding to questions about whether the jet could be flying again by August, Elwell said: “If you said October I wouldn’t even say that, only because we haven’t finished determining exactly what the training requirements will be. If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us the confidence to lift the (grounding) order so be it.”
Boeing’s software update is for a feature on the jet designed to stop it climbing at an angle that as dangerously high – if planes do this there is a danger of them stalling.
The feature, called Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (Mcas), has been linked to the dual catastrophes that have taken place in recent months, with some accusing it of having been faulty on the jets, pushing their nose down when there is no need to.
Airlines and travel firms across the globe have been hit hard by the grounded jet. Tour operator Tui said earlier this month it had already taken a €200m hit from its fleet of 15 737 Max planes being stuck on the ground. But Tui's misery may not be over, given that the calculation assumes that flights can assume again in mid-July at the latest. It is expecting another eight deliveries of the plane once the global order is lifted.