CHICAGO, Illinois - As hundreds of Boeing 737 Max jets remain grounded awaiting approval from aviation regulators, the company said the plane is not expected to return to service until mid-2020.
"We're informing our customers/suppliers that we are currently estimating that ungrounding of 737 MAX will begin during mid-2020. This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process," Boeing in a statement released on Tuesday (local time).
Boeing also said this is subject to the company's attempts to address schedule risks and further developments in connection with the certification process of the plane, which was grounded in March last year after two crashes that killed 346 people.
"Returning the MAX safely to service is our number one priority, and we are confident that will happen. We acknowledge and regret the continued difficulties that the grounding of the 737 MAX has presented to our customers, our regulators, our suppliers and the flying public," Boeing said.
The company earlier determined that a software fix was likely to correct the issue with the automatic safety feature that caused the crashes.
However, as part of a December 2019 audit of the plane's safety ordered by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Boeing found 'previously unreported concerns' with wiring in the 737 Max.
The company informed the FAA that it is looking into whether two sections of wiring that control the tail of the plane are too close together and could cause a short circuit - and potentially a crash if pilots did not react appropriately.
A Boeing spokesperson had confirmed the report to CNN, saying the issue was identified as part of a rigorous process to ensure the plane's safety.
"Our highest priority is ensuring the 737 Max meets all safety and regulatory requirements before it returns to service," the spokesperson had said.
Orders for the 737 Max dried up following the grounding, and it was not until November last year that Boeing recorded its first new orders since the grounding.
In the meantime, the company continued to produce the planes at a rate of 42 jets a month in hopes of a quick recertification by airline regulators around the globe.