Two big updates on Boeing’s grounded 737 Max aircraft this week: international regulators are meeting at a close-door summit on the aircraft’s return, and in the United States, officials have reportedly said the aircraft could fly before the completion of a pair of investigations into the certification process that initially cleared it for operations.
Reuters reports that the international summit is taking place Wednesday, with the aim of shoring up trust and improving coordination among regulators, after the aircraft was grounded at different times by different countries following two deadly crashes involving the jet. China had been the first, while the United States and Canada were the last.
Meanwhile, according to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) memo and a Transportation Department email obtained by Bloomberg Government, the evaluation of the aircraft’s fitness to fly will not depend on a pair of probes into the initial certification process that had cleared it. Conducted by an FAA panel and the Transportation Department’s inspector general, the investigations had been intended to address what some critics had called a “cozy” certification process in which plane manufacturers could pay their own employees to oversee much of the certification work, which is approved by the FAA.
The move has prompted criticism from some lawmakers. “Any attempt to rush these planes back into service would be both shortsighted and dangerous,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Bloomberg.
Even as the aircraft remains grounded, airlines are continuing to express support for it, according to an analysis by Barron’s. Last week British Airways parent company IAG signed a letter of intent for 200 737 Max aircraft, and Brazil-based low-cost carrier Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes told the publication that it is “looking forward” to having the plane back in service. During the first quarter conference call for Southwest Airlines, which operates an all-737 fleet, CEO Gary Kelly said, “We’re looking forward to obviously working with the FAA to get it ungrounded.”