WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The pilot of Southwest Airlines Co pilot company on Wednesday strongly criticized Boeing Co and questioned whether the manufacturer was trying to speed up the timeline for 737 MAX's return to service.
FILE PHOTO: A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft appear parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California, USA, March 26, 2019. REUTERS / Mike Blake / File Photo
Boeing's best-selling 737 MAX has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people, and it has come under harsh criticism from US lawmakers.
Jon Weaks, who is the head of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), said in a statement to pilots on Wednesday, reported by Reuters, that "Boeing is increasingly announcing that they may have to close their production line due to of running out of room to store complete MAX aircraft. There is some concern that this is simply another tactic for pushing (back to service) the timeline up. "
He added that by doing so would" force operators to resume paying with MAX aircraft, and transfer some costs, logistics and responsibility to store and restore MAX to earnings service to respective operators. ”
Boeing did not immediately comment late Wednesday.
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said the airline is "confident of the work being done to restart MAX and continue to await further guidance from Boeing and the FAA on the time and next step."
Monday, Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe told Reuters that "we expect Max to have a certified, airworthiness directive issued, ungrounded in mid-December." He added that the company expects "pilot training requirements to be approved in January."
Boeing noted that "the FAA and other regulatory authorities will ultimately determine the return to service."
Two federal officials told Reuters this week that Boe's schedule is aggressive and far from certain, citing obstacles that are yet to be cleared.
Boeing still needs to complete a revision of the software documentation before it can plan a key certification test flight.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson said Tuesday that the agency did not "delegate" anything to Boeing in its review and offered no timetable for ungrounding, saying it "will only be based on our assessment of sufficient with Boeing's proposed software updates and pilot training. "
On Friday, Southwest and American Airlines extended Boeing 737 MAX cancellations to early March, only hidden from the one-year anniversary of an Ethiopian Airlines crash that led to a worldwide anchorage.
A month ago, SWAPA sued Boeing, saying it "deliberately misled" the airline and pilots, wiping out more than 30,000 Southwest Airlines flights, resulting in more than $ 100 million in lost wages for pilots, the association reports.
David Shepardson; additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski in New York Editing by Gerry Doyle