NEW YORK – Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Wednesday that the firm is working with regulators in the “final phases” to allow the company’s 737 MAX passenger jets to start flying again after the planes were all grounded more than six months ago after the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people.
He said that the company was making daily progress in the final phases of certifying the planes to fly in a speech before the Economic Club of New York.
Boeing is hoping that the controversial jet can return to regular operations during this year’s fourth quarter once regulators have given the green light to the software updates and the new pilot training programs that the company has developed.
On Wednesday, Muilenburg said that Boeing is working very closely with US authorities and those of many other countries to respond to all their requirements, and he emphasized that the tests and trials performed so far have been positive.
He said that Boeing test pilots have already completed more than 700 flights in the 737 MAX with updated software and that he himself had participated in two of those flights.
Muilenburg said that the firm was taking steps to ensure that accidents like the ones last year do not recur, acknowledging that the incidents had led Boeing to reconsider its entire safety strategy.
Among other measures, the CEO said that the firm created an anonymous system to encourage employees to report potential problems that they detect.
According to several press reports, Boeing workers warned their superiors of specific dangers in the 737 MAX that were not attended to prior to the crashes.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that a Boeing engineer this year filed a complaint saying that during the development of the 737 MAX, to keep costs down, the company rejected a safety system that could have reduced the risks that led to the tragedies in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Despite the problems the firm has experienced, the Boeing chief emphasized in his speech the great future ahead of the company and the entire aeronautics sector, especially given the growing global demand for air travel.
According to Muilenburg, Boeing’s projections indicate that the world passenger jet fleet will double in size in the next 20 years, with a huge push being made in business outside the US and Europe, the two traditional and key markets.
He said that at least 20 percent of the world population has flown aboard an airplane at some time in their lives and that there is enormous potential for growth, above all due to the increasing middle class in emerging markets.