The head of the Federal Aviation Administration is giving no clue about when his agency might clear Boeing's 737 Max to fly.
But when addressing attendees at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum on 28 October, FAA administrator Stephen Dickson stressed repeatedly that his agency will not clear the aircraft to fly until Boeing fully addresses all the FAA's safety concerns.
"The FAA's return-to-service decision will be based solely on our assessment of the sufficiency of Boeing's proposed software update and training" recommendations, Dickson told a packed crowd of ALTA attendees.
He insists that the FAA will cut no corners and is completing a new safety review – a message coming amid global concern about seeming lapses in the FAA's original certification of the Max.
That concern has led some regulators outside the USA to reconsider the traditional certification approach under which they essentially rubber-stamp the FAA's aircraft type certificates.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency, for instance, has committed to conducting an independent Max review. The aircraft has been grounded globally since March following the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air Max 8 and the March crash of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft of the same model.
Lion Air investigators have pinned that accident on Boeing's flight control system, shortcomings in the FAA's certification and lapses by Lion Air, among other factors.
"Other civil regulators have to take their own actions to return the 737 Max to service." Dickson says. "The civil aviation authorities must know we are not resting on the previous safety analysis."
Latin American carriers have acquired or ordered nearly 300 737 Max jets, Cirium fleets data shows.
Boeing last week said it anticipates regulators will approve the Max's certification before year-end, though the FAA has disclosed no timeline.
Dickson concedes the FAA must improve its industry oversight and suggests his agency will adopt some of the various certification improvement recommendations issued by various groups in recent weeks. Recommendations have come from the National Transportation Safety Board, Indonesian accident investigators and an FAA-convened safety panel composed of aviation safety experts from numerous countries.
"The FAA is fully committed to address all the recommendations, with special emphasis on those that pertain to returning the 737 Max to service," Dickson says. "What we have done in the past and what we are doing today will not be good enough for the future."