New FAA administrator says there is no timeline for the 737 MAX's return to service

Posted at 1:29 AM, Aug 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-13 01:29:27-04

The new head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Stephen Dickson commented on the 737 MAX's return to service shortly after he was sworn in as the agency's 18th administrator on Monday.

The former senior vice president of flight operations for Delta Air Lines was confirmed by the Senate on July 24 in a 52 to 40 vote that went along party lines.

"I want to again be clear and absolutely committed, that the FAA is a safety driven organization and safety is my highest priority," Dickson said after being sworn in by U.S Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao . "This plane will not fly commercial service again until I'm completely assured that it is safe to do so."

Governments and airlines around the world have grounded the Boeing 737 Max aircraftafter two fatal crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed a total of 346 people.

"At this moment an entire fleet of U.S. made aircraft is grounded due to two tragic accidents overseas," Dickson said. "My heart, my prayers, go out to the families of those who perished in Indonesia and Ethiopia."

Reports by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times looked into alleged flaws in the FAA's certification process.

Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Carl Burleson responded to those reports in a Senate subcommittee hearing on July 31 that discussed the FAA's oversight of the Boeing 737 MAX.

"The professionals who are working this day in and day out have an incredible commitment to trying to get it right," Burleson said at the hearing. "The fundamental process of how we went about certifying the MAX was sound."

Dickson said on Monday that the FAA is not following any timeline for returning the aircraft to service.

"We're going where the facts lead us and diligently ensuring that all technology and training is present and current before the plane returns to passenger service," Dickson said.

In June, FAA pilots found a new potential issue with the 737 Max aircraft involved in both fatal crashes during a simulated flight, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The new flaw was traced to how data was processed by the flight computer and not related to reported problems with the anti-stall system, MCAS, sources told ABC News. They said it was connected to a broader anti-stall system called "speed trim."

Last week, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company had worked its way through the "technical details" and are "in the final stages of repairing that software."

"We'll go through certification with the FAA," Muilenburg said. "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."