Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg says the company is on track to submit its final software update for the grounded 737 MAX to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by September.
Speaking at the Global Business Travel Association convention in Chicago on Monday (US time), Muilenburg said Boeing was working hard on “earning and re-earning the trust of the flying public” following the grounding of the 737 MAX in response to two fatal crashes.
Muilenburg said Boeing has worked through the technical details of the 737 MAX software update and was in the final stages of preparing that software.
“We plan to submit that certification package in September and currently anticipate that we will return the airplane to service early in the fourth quarter,” Muilenburg said during a question-and-answer session at the event.
“We firmly believe that with the software updates, the redundancies we are adding to the airplane, it’s a robust solution and the MAX will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly as a result.”
Anti-stall software used on the 737 MAX, known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), has been implicated by investigators as a factor in the Ethiopian Airlines accident, as well as the earlier fatal crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018.
In June, the FAA said in June it had found a “potential risk” with Boeing’s fix that had to be addressed before the aircraft would be cleared to fly. In response, Boeing said it was working to address what it described as an additional flight condition to reduce pilot workload and ensure the safety of the aircraft which was unrelated to MCAS.
Boeing’s timetable for the software update and return to service of 737 MAX was unchanged from late July when the company outlined during its second quarter results presentation that it was working towards receiving regulatory approval during the final quarter of calendar 2019.
The FAA has said previously it was not working to any timetable for recertification of the aircraft.
Boeing said at its second quarter results it might consider further reducing production – it slowed the number of 737s emerging from final assembly to 42 a month in April, from 52 a month – or temporarily stop making 737s.
The convention heard a survey of Global Business Travel Association members found two-thirds believed travellers were likely to change travel plans to avoid the 737 MAX.
Asked for his response to the survey, Muilenburg acknowledged the 737 MAX grounding had damaged the trust between the flying public and Boeing.
However, Muilenburg said the public should take confidence from the work being undertaken to ensure a recertified 737 MAX was safe.
“That includes almost 500 flight tests that have now been conducted with that new software,” Muilenburg said. “I have personally flown on two of those flight tests just to add to our confidence level and our employees are eager to do the same.”
Further, Boeing has run more than 200 simulator sessions and held “about a dozen” conferences with its airline customers around the world.
Finally, there was the “amount of rigour that is going on with the regulatory work and the comprehensive reviews of the certification with the FAA and the other regulators”.
“All of that should add confidence to the future,” Muilenburg said.
“We are very focused on earning and re-earning the trust of the flying public and we will not stop that’s the case.”
VIDEO: Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg speaking at the Global Business Travel Association conference in Chicago on August 5 2019 from the CNBC YouTube channel.