- The CEO of American Airlines said that the return of the Boeing 737 Max may be delayed longer than the airline predicted.
- American Airlines boss Doug Parker told employees that “politics” may affect the plane’s return, and that he may in turn delay the plane’s return to American Airlines as it figures out pilots’ schedules.
- Parker said he didn’t think that the US Federal Aviation Administration wants to be “alone” in re-certifying the plane.
- Europe has outlined its own criteria for the plane that could mean it returns in the US before Europe, but Parker’s comments indicate that the FAA could rather delay the plane than have this happen.
- The FAA has come under a harsh spotlight for how it certifies planes, with even American Airlines pilots expressing concern that it might be too close to the manufacturers, though the FAA has defended its processes.
- Read more stories like this on Business Insider.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told employees that there could be even more delays to the 737 Max because of “politics,”CNBC reported, signalling that the US Federal Aviation Administration is increasingly worried about its reputation following two fatal crashes.
American Airlines has cancelled some flights until September 3 as Boeing’s 737 Max remains grounded around the world after two fatal crashes.
But Boeing and the FAA have not outlined a timetable for when they expect the plane to return, and Parker told employees at a town hall meeting last week that American Airlines may push that September date even further back.
He told staff that the need to sort of pilot schedules means that “you may see us push it back a month,” according to CNBC, which obtained a recording of the event.
Parker said that while Boeing has announced that it has completed a software update to the plane, “they have been saying that for a while.”
The update needs to be approved by the FAA and regulators around the world before the plane can return, and pilots will then need new training. So the plane could return to service before American Airlines starts to fly it again.
In a statement to Business Insider, American Airlines said that it was “confidennt” that the plane would be certified “soon” and that it had only currently cancelled flights until September 3. But it said that date will change if necessary.
“We have cancellations through Sept. 3. We continue to monitor this process closely, and if necessary, we will make additional changes to our schedule.”
Parker said that “politics” could mean that the plane returns later than they expected, indicating that the industry believes the FAA is concerned about people’s trust in the plane and its own safety oversight and that other countries may decide to keep the plane grounded for longer.
“I think as much as anything now it may be politics as much as the true certification … safety issue. I don’t think the FAA wants to be alone in doing this,” he said, according to CNBC.
The 737 Max crisis has thrown a harsh spotlight on the FAA and its closeness with plane manufacturers and with the US political system.
The FAA’s certification process for the plane is the subject of a number of federal and Congressional investigations, with a number of Congress members slamming the process that allows plane manufacturers like Boeing to help to certify their own products.
Daniel Elwell, acting administrator of the FAA, has repeatedly defended the FAA’s processes in light of the 737 Max crashes, and said that it has produced safe aircraft for years.
Europe’s aviation safety regulator has already outlined its own requirements for the plane’s return, independent of those set by the FAA, which could mean that the plane could return in the US before it does in Europe.
Parker’s comments suggest that the FAA would rather delay the plane’s return rather than have that sort of discrepancy.
American Airline’s own pilots have added to this scrutiny, with Captain Daniel Carey, the head of American Airlines pilots union Allied Pilots Association, questioning to Congress whether the FAA is sufficiently independent to properly audit planes.
In response to the Allied Pilots Association’s assertions, the FAA told Business Insider: “The FAA’s aircraft certification processes are well established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs. The 737-MAX certification program took five years and involved 110,000 hours of work on the part of FAA personnel, following the FAA’s standard certification process.”
Neither Boeing or the FAA have given a clear outline for when the plane will return. An FAA official said earlier in June that the plane will be back “by December,” which is later than many in the industry expected.
In a statement to Business Insider, American Airlines said:
“American Airlines remains confident that impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with our union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft soon. We have been in continuous contact with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other regulatory authorities, and we are pleased with the progress to date.”
One of the key issues that could determine when the plane returns is the decision over whether or not pilots should train in a simulator.
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