NEW YORK (AFP) – The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Thursday it would meet with American commercial airlines that use the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded worldwide since mid-March following two accidents that killed 346 people.
The meeting, scheduled to take place on Friday in Washington, comes as Boeing faces intense scrutiny after 157 people died in an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash on March 10 — the second deadly crash involving the aircraft in five months.
”The purpose of this meeting is for the FAA to gather facts, information, and individual views to further understand their views as FAA decides what needs to be done before returning the aircraft to service,” the agency said in a statement.
Security representatives from American Airlines, Southwest and United will be at the meeting, as well as representatives from their pilot unions.
American and Southwest use the 737 MAX 8, while United has 737 MAX 9 aircraft in its fleet.
The FAA recently formed an action committee with NASA and international civil aviation authorities to help certify the fix to the MCAS anti-stall system Boeing developed specifically for the 737 MAX.
The MCAS is believed to have been a key factor in both the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people in October.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg said Thursday that the changes the aircraft manufacturer is working on will make the 737 MAX ”even safer by preventing erroneous angle of attack sensor readings” from triggering the MCAS.
Speaking in public for the first time since the Ethiopian Airlines crash, Muilenberg told a conference in Dallas, Texas that Boeing has conducted 96 test flights of the modified 737 MAX and the pilots have taken part in more than 159 hours of tests.
He added that he had been on board one test flight in Seattle and that the software update ”functioned as designed.”
”In these challenging times, I am even more confident we will come through this even stronger,” he said in conclusion, adding he ”(regrets) the impact the grounding has had on all of our airline customers and their passengers.”
Muilenberg is expected to answer questions from the financial community on April 24 as part of the release of Boeing’s first quarter results.