No one knows when the Boeing 737 Max will return to service. But it won't be any time soon.
Boeing eagerly awaits the US Federal Aviation Administration's approval to allow the grounded plane to fly again. But the FAA refuses to provide a specific timeframe, saying only that it will make a decision sometime this year.
"We continue to work with other international aviation safety regulators to review the proposed changes to the aircraft," said the FAA's most recent statement on the plane, issued on January 9. "Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed."
The plane has been grounded since March
because of two fatal crashes
that killed 346 people. Boeing had initially hoped a fix for the safety system, known as MCAS, could be approved in a matter of weeks after the second crash. But it has missed target date after target date for completion of the process.
Aerospace analysts believe regulatory approval could come in the spring. Cai von Rumohr of Cowen now forecasts March. Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says he's thinking April or perhaps May. But they both say that is only their best guess at this point.
Embarrassing revelations, intense scrutiny
"It's no longer about MCAS. It's about things that might be discovered," said Aboulafia. "This is going to be the most scrutinized certification in history."
Recently, Boeing (BA
) was embarrassed after it released internal communications
showing that some of its own employees questioned the 737 Max's design and safety during the original certification process. One employee wrote the plane was "designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys." Two other employees agreed they wouldn't let their family members fly on the plane.