FAA Administrator Steve Dickson has told staff to ignore pressure to return the Boeing 737 MAX to service and to take all the time they need to ensure the aircraft is safe. In a video address released on Friday, Dickson said he will personally support FAA staff in their thorough review of the aircraft and he will also personally sign off on its return to service. “I want you to know I want you to take the time you need and focus solely on safety,” he said. “I’ve got your back.” After all that work is done to everyone’s satisfaction, Dickson, a former Delta pilot, said he will fly the aircraft. “I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself and I’m satisfied I would put my own family on it without a second thought.”
Meanwhile, despite Dickson’s unambiguous message, Boeing is letting airlines know that it expects the plane to be cleared for flight in December and to announce pilot training requirements in January. Most airlines have tentatively planned to get their MAXes back on the schedule by March and phase them into their fleets. The Seattle Times is reporting that in addition to the 385 in-service aircraft, more than 300 have been built since the grounding and the FAA has said it will inspect each one before it is allowed to fly. Boeing will have to install the software fixes to the flight control systems and the airlines will need to get the aircraft ready for flight before the FAA inspections can take place.