The head of the Federal Aviation Administration has told airlines that it could lift a flight ban on the Boeing 737 Max before midyear, ahead of the manufacturer's new timeline that it shared with its customers this week. The news sent Boeing's shares higher.
The planes have been grounded since March after two deadly crashes in a span of five months killed all 346 people on the flights.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told carriers that it could recertify the planes before the middle of the year if no new issues are discovered, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
Boeing discovered several problems aside from the flight-control software on the planes that was implicated in both crashes. Those other problems included an issue with the spacing of wiring bundles and a glitch in computer monitoring software.
"While the FAA continues to follow a thorough, deliberate process, the agency is pleased with Boeing's progress in recent weeks toward achieving key milestones," the FAA said in a statement. "Safety is the top priority, and the FAA continues to work with other safety regulators to ensure that Boeing has addressed all known issues with the aircraft."
Boeing shares rose on the news, which was reported earlier by Reuters, and closed up 1.7% at $323.05, paring its losses for the week to 0.3%. Boeing's shares fell sharply on Tuesday when it said it expected regulators to sign off on the planes in the middle of the year.
The manufacturer ousted its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, last month after friction with regulators. The former chief executive had repeatedly told the public that regulators would sign off on the planes before the end of 2019.