Airlines and regulators are gathering in Montreal to discuss a safe and co-ordinated return of Boeing’s grounded 737 Max jets to the skies, following two deadly crashes. The meeting, organised by the industry trade group International Air Transport Association (IATA), comes as airlines grapple with the financial impact of the global grounding of nearly 400 737 Max jets.
The grounding has lasted three months. Boeing, the world’s largest planemaker, has yet to formally submit proposed 737 Max software and training updates to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which will kick-start a re-certification process that could take weeks.
IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said that “shoring up trust among regulators, and improving co-ordination”, within an industry that grounded the Max planes on different dates in March, would be priorities at the summit. It is the second such meeting organised by IATA.
China was first to ground the Max, after a March 10 crashed in Ethiopia within five months of a similar crash off Indonesia. A combined 346 people were killed. The US and Canada were the last to ground the planes.
Regulators, including Transport Canada, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and the FAA were due to join airlines at the meeting, representatives from the authorities said.
Once regulators approve the Max for flight, airlines must remove the jets from storage and implement new pilot training, a process that will differ for each airline, but which US carriers have said will take at least one month.
Some airlines and regulators have argued that pilots should be trained in a Max simulator before flying, though Boeing’s minimum training requirements do not call for flight simulators, according to draft proposals.
“Training is up to each regulator. When the Max returns to the skies, with the updated software and required training, it will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly,” said Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman.
Boeing’s software fix is meant to make a system known as MCAS, which played a role in both crashes, less powerful. Still, Air Canada has said its 400 Max pilots, about 10% of its pilot force, will train in the simulator.
Air Canada is the only North American carrier that currently owns the Max simulator. Boeing made its first post-grounding 737 Max sale order at last week’s Paris Air Show, with Aer Lingus and British Airways owner, IAG, ordering 200 jets, in a reportedly significantly discounted deal.