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FAA chief Dan Elwell: It could take a year for Boeing 737 Max to fly again

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May 24 (UPI) — The head of the Federal Aviation Administration says there’s no timetable to get Boeing’s 737 Max fleet back into U.S. skies — even if it takes a year.

Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell and international aviation leaders met to discuss the matter in Texas Thursday. During the conference, Elwell said the planes will takeoff whenever they’re approved to fly.

Regulators from nearly three dozen foreign nations attended the meeting in Fort Worth to learn about the re-certification process and get a better idea when the 737 Max will be cleared to fly.

“The last thing I want is to put a date out there for lifting the grounding,” Elwell said.

He said the United States, however, will be the first nation to lift the ground order.

“When we get to the point where we can lift this order, we will do it alone,” he said, explaining that the FAA must do it first because it certified the original design.

Nearly 400 of the planes were grounded worldwide in March after an Ethiopian Airlines crash in Africa. That crash came less than six months after another 737 Max 8 went down in Indonesia. The accidents killed a combined 346 people. Investigators have pointed to a malfunctioning flight control safety feature that pushes the plane’s nose down as a contributor in both incidents.

Elwell told reporters the safety review of Boeing’s fleet will last “as long as it takes.”

“The 737 Max will fly again when we have gone through all of the necessary analysis to determine that it is safe to do so,” the FAA chief said.

“If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us the confidence to lift the order, then so be it.”

Boeing has said it’s working on a software fix for the automated flight system, which requires FAA approval. Elwell said the FAA is waiting to review the patch, and that each country will make their own determination when the plane will fly again.

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