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FAA optimistic regulators will be on same page with 737 Max

Key Points
  • Many airline executives have indicated they expect the plane to be back in service by July or August.
  • Elwell won't predict when the FAA will approve new software and pilot training designed to fix the 737 Max MCAS flight control system.
  • "We will follow a process that is robust, rigorous and we will leave no stone unturned," he said. "If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us the confidence, so be it."
A Boeing 737 Max 9 test plane at the Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington on on March 22, 2019.
Stephen Brashear | Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration, still stinging from criticism of its certification and eventual grounding of Boeing 737 Max, is optimistic it can get regulators around the world to agree on the process for getting the planes back in the air.

"The idea is we are working globally from the same sheet of music and that music is the data we are using to determine when the plane is safe to fly," said Dan Elwell, acting administrator of the FAA. Elwell met with reporters ahead of a day-long meeting of aviation regulators from around the world in Fort Worth, Texas.

Elwell says the FAA has no time frame for re-certifying the 737 Max. While many airline executives have indicated they expect the plane to be back in service by July or August, Elwell won't predict when the FAA will approve new software and pilot training designed to fix the 737 Max MCAS flight control system.

"We will follow a process that is robust, rigorous and we will leave no stone unturned," he said. "If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us the confidence, so be it."

Boeing's 737 Max has been grounded by the FAA and aviation agencies around the world since mid-March. Since then Boeing has been working on software to correct the 737 Max MCAS flight control system, but it has yet to file an application with the FAA for re-certification.

In a statement ahead of the regulator meeting, Boeing said, "the software update is complete and Boeing is now providing additional information to address FAA requests. Once the requests are addressed, Boeing will work with the FAA to schedule its certification test flight and submit final certification documentation."

Elwell says eventually, all agencies will approve the Max to fly again. When that happens, he knows some travelers will be hesitant to fly on the plane.

"Is public confidence shaken? Maybe," he said. "But I'm not worried about the future of public confidence because I'm not worried about the future of aviation safety."

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