New York (CNN Business)Boeing appears close to securing key regulatory approvals for its grounded 737 Max to fly again — a potential lifeline for the struggling plane maker.
The approval process has moved at a glacial pace, taking more than a year longer than Boeing (BA) had hoped. Even with the recent progress, there are many bureaucratic procedures, plane repairs and pilot training that must be completed, enough to keep airlines from putting passengers on the planes until sometime next year.
The approval will come as demand for passenger jets has nearly evaporated due to the sharp drop in air travel and massive losses across the airline industry caused by the pandemic.
Some good news for Boeing came Friday, when the the EU Aviation Safety Agency confirmed it is also getting close to giving the all-clear. But it will still take more than a month to complete that final approval.
Patrick Ky, executive director of the agency, told Bloomberg he’s satisfied with the steps that Boeing has taken to make the plane safe. But even after the approval to fly again, the agency will still require Boeing to make an additional software upgrade for an extra layer of redundancy. That will likely take another two years to complete, he said. The plane has been grounded since March 2019 following two fatal crashes that killed 346 people.
Boeing had initially hoped for a relatively short grounding, but it has been difficult to get approval. And the FAA has faced its own criticism for the way it initially approved the plane as safe to fly, and why it didn’t act in the five months between the first and second crash. Embarrassing documents revealed that Boeing engineers and other employees had doubts about the plane’s safety during the initial review of the plane.