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737 MAX could be ‘phased’ back into service

AFP-Jiji NEW YORK (AFP-Jiji)— Boeing’s 737 MAX could be brought back into service gradually by government regulators but is still on track to be cleared to fly again in 2019, the company’s CEO said Wednesday.

The aircraft was been grounded in mid-March following two deadly crashes but could return to the air on a staggered schedule in different countries.

Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said the company is still working through a number of questions with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators but that “all of that work supports our timeline for an early fourth quarter return to service.”

“A phased ungrounding is a possibility,” he said at an investor conference in California.

Shares of Boeing rallied after Muilenburg’s remarks. The MAX crisis has crimped Boeing’s financial performance and dented its reputation. Commercial plane deliveries fell more than 40 percent through August compared with the year-ago period.

The company is addressing questions from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which has expressed concerns about a malfunction of the “angle of attack” sensor which triggered an anti-stall system linked to the deadly crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines planes.

“I wouldn’t see those as divisive,” Muilenburg said of the EASA queries. “I just think those are questions that we need to answer as part of the process.”

EASA is also among the regulators that have pressed for enhanced pilot training, including simulator training.

U.S. pilot groups also have called for mandatory simulator training saying training on computer tablets was insufficient.

A requirement for simulator training could hamper efforts to return the aircraft to service, because there are fewer than two dozen MAX simulators currently available. In the past, pilots have gotten around this barrier by training on a simulator for the 737 NG, the predecessor plane for the MAX.Speech

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