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Boeing 737 Max’s return up to each country’s government, FAA says

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen parked on Boeing property on August 13, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.

David Ryder | Getty Images

The Boeing 737 Max’s return to service after two fatal crashes will be up to the safety assessment of each country, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson reiterated on Monday that the agency, which has historically taken the lead on aviation safety issues, has no set timeline to allow the jets, Boeing’s bestseller, back into the air. He called on governments around the world to improve aircraft design, production and maintenance standards. The Max planes have been grounded worldwide since mid-March after two crashes within five months of one another killed 346 people.

Dickson last week visited Boeing’s facilities in the Seattle area and flew in a 737 Max simulator, ahead of Boeing handing over an official package of software changes to the planes. Crash investigators implicated a flight-control program that misfired in both crashes, repeatedly pushing the nose of the planes down into fatal dives.

It is not clear when the FAA or other regulators will approve the plane. Boeing’s CEO earlier this month said that the plane’s return could be “phased” after several regulators said they had additional questions about the aircraft.

Both Boeing and the FAA are facing multiple investigations and intense scrutiny over how the planes were designed and certified. Pilots complained after the first crash in Indonesia in October 2018, that they didn’t know that the flight-control software, known as MCAS, had been installed on the jets.

“As we in the aviation world know, accidents in complex systems rarely are the result of a single cause; rather, they often happen due to a complex chain of events and interaction between man and machine,” Dickson said.

The deadly flights have also raised questions about varying levels of training around the world to fly ever-more complex aircraft.

“The last few months have made it clear that, in the mind of the traveling public, aviation safety recognizes no borders,” Dickson said, in prepared remarks, ahead of a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations’ aviation body. Travelers demand the same high level of safety no matter where they fly. It is up to us as aviation regulators to deliver on this shared responsibility.”

Earlier on Monday, the administrators of a $50 million fund set up by Boeing for victims’ family members said it started operations and that it would pay each of the 346 victim’s family $144,500. The family members who receive that sum won’t have to waive their rights to sue, the administrators said.

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