Boeing is still looking to return the 737 MAX to service by the end of the year, according to statements made by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg at an investment conference in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday. The aircraft was grounded last March in the wake of the crashes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10 and Lion Air Flight 610 on Oct. 29, 2018, which killed 346 people.
Muilenburg said the company is making progress on updates to aircraft software and the MAX training package, including adding an enhanced computer-based training module related to the software changes. As previously reported by AVweb, the software updates are designed to address faults with the aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which is considered to be the primary cause of both accidents.
“On the 737 MAX, we’re continuing to make solid progress on return to service,” said Muilenburg. “We’re still targeting early fourth quarter for return to service of the 737 MAX. The principle schedule risk on that continues to be regulator alignment around the world and regulator approvals.” Muilenburg reported that Boeing continues to work with aviation regulators worldwide, but stated that a phased ungrounding of the aircraft is a possibility if the FAA decides it is safe to proceed with returning the MAX to service before other regulatory agencies. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recently stated that it intends to conduct a separate, independent review of the MAX before clearing it to fly again.
According to Muilenburg, Boeing has an order backlog of 4,400 MAX aircraft. After a production slowdown last April, he said the company anticipates incrementally ramping up to producing 57 per month based on the return to service timing. Boeing is currently producing 42 MAXs per month.