FAA says it will handle all approvals for new Max jets

Federal regulators say they will handle all approvals for new Boeing 737 Max jets instead of letting Boeing employees do some of that work

WASHINGTON -- Federal safety regulators indicated Tuesday that they will keep full control over approvals of each new Boeing 737 Max built since the planes were grounded in March, rather than delegating some of the work to Boeing employees.

Boeing hasn’t stopped producing the Max, although it slowed down the assembly line in April. The FAA’s announcement doesn’t cover planes that were approved before the Max was grounded following two crashes that killed 346 people.

The FAA decision affects more than 300 finished Max jets currently sitting in storage. Boeing delivered nearly 400 before the Max was grounded.

It is the latest move by the FAA to show its independence from Boeing. Lawmakers have accused the FAA of surrendering too much authority to the aircraft manufacturer in certifying the Max.

That was met, however, with pushback by the FAA. Earlier this month, FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson said, “there is a lot of pressure to return this aircraft to service quickly.”

Dickson has refused to publicly set a date for the plane’s return, telling FAA employees “to take the time you need and focus solely on safety.” Dickson also hasn’t said whether the FAA will go along with Boeing’s desire to resume Max deliveries to airlines next month, even before the FAA approves a new program for training pilots to fly the planes.

A Boeing spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said Tuesday, “We will continue to work closely with the FAA on the safe return to service of the Max fleet.”