Boeing 737 Max unlikely to fly again until August, Iata says

Regulators and Boeing to meet in coming weeks to set timeline for return to service

European regulators, assessing proposed changes to the Boeing 737 Max, plan to scrutinize the jet’s entire flight-control system. Photograph: Lindsey Wasson/New York Times

European regulators, assessing proposed changes to the Boeing 737 Max, plan to scrutinize the jet’s entire flight-control system. Photograph: Lindsey Wasson/New York Times

 

The worldwide grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max is taking its toll on airlines and it will be months before the aircraft returns to service, the head of the International Air Transport Association said.

Boeing’s fastest-selling aircraft, grounded by regulators after fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, is unlikely to return to commercial service until August, Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s chief executive said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

Airlines, regulators and Boeing will meet in five to seven weeks to try and set a common timeline on when the Max could return to service and how trust could be restored, Mr De Juniac said.

“But it is not in our hands. It’s in the hands of regulators.”

Iata represents some 290 airlines, or more than 80 per cent of total air traffic.

Cautious stance

Mr De Juniac’s bleak assessment echoes the cautious stance adopted by aviation authorities on the timeline for the Max’s possible return. Airlines, pilots unions and aviation industry expert say that what kind of training pilots receive could determine whether Boeing’s grounded 737 Max aircraft is back in the air by the end of the northern hemisphere summer, or only much later.

Whether pilots should be retrained in a few hours on iPads, or on costly and scarce 737 Max flight simulators, has emerged as one of the biggest unanswered questions surrounding the return to service of the aircraft.

European regulators, assessing proposed changes to the Max, plan to scrutinize the jet’s entire flight-control system before they approve a return to the skies, while US aviation regulators said they wouldn’t rush the matter.

Mr de Juniac said the past six months had been “tough” for airlines.

Despite that, however, demand has been holding up with 4.3 per cent year-on-year passenger growth recorded in April. The air cargo market, however, is suffering on the back of global trade tensions. Air freight markets declined 4.7 per cent in April compared with a year ago. – Bloomberg/The Financial Times Limited