A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max airplane parked last month at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max airplane parked last month at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Boeing doesn’t expect Max to be cleared to fly until summer

That timetable would be five or six months longer than Boeing predicted for the grounded 737 late last year.

Associated Press and Herald staff

The Boeing Co. doesn’t expect federal regulators to approve changes to the grounded 737 Max until this summer, Boeing said Tuesday.

That timetable would be five or six months longer than Boeing predicted late last year, and it’s the latest of several delays in the plane’s re-approval process.

The three U.S. airlines that own Maxes — Southwest, American and United — have scrubbed the plane from their schedules until early June. It is possible, however, that they won’t use the planes until much later, possibly after the busy summer travel season is over.

If the Max returns to flight as now planned, airlines will need additional time to train pilots on changes that Boeing is making after two crashes killed 346 people. That means the Max’s return to service could be pushed past the peak summer travel season.

The latest timetable is based on work remaining to be done before the Federal Aviation Administration will allow the Max back in the sky, according to the two people familiar with the matter, who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity to discuss timing that Boeing has not publicly announced.

“We are informing our customers and suppliers that we are currently estimating that the ungrounding of the 737 MAX will begin during mid-2020,” the company said in a news release. “This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process. It is subject to our ongoing attempts to address known schedule risks and further developments that may arise in connection with the certification process. It also accounts for the rigorous scrutiny that regulatory authorities are rightly applying at every step of their review of the 737 MAX’s flight control system and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board process which determines pilot training requirements.”

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