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          Southwest pilots don't expect 737 MAX to return until February

          By SCOTT REEVES in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-10-17 00:54
          Workers stand near a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliner being built for American Airlines prior to a test flight, in Renton, Washington, the United States, May 8, 2019. [Photo/IC]

          Pilots at Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the Boeing 737 MAX jet in the US, believe the plane won't return to service until February 2020, as much as two months later than the aircraft manufacturer's target.

          Like competitors American and United, Southwest Airlines, which has a MAX fleet of 34, has said it expects the MAX to resume commercial flights in January. Boeing believes the aircraft will return to service in the fourth quarter of this year.

          The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) has sued Boeing, alleging the manufacturer "deliberately misled" the airline about MAX, forcing the cancellation of about 30,000 flights and costing the pilots about $100 million in lost wages. The airline has said it will share any payment from Boeing over the MAX grounding with employees.

          SWAPA's lawsuit, filed in Dallas, alleges that Boeing "abandoned sound design and engineering practices, withheld safety critical information from regulators and deliberately misled its customers, pilots and the public about the true scope of design changes to the 737 MAX".

          In a statement, Boeing said the lawsuit is "meritless" and pledged to "vigorously defend against it". Boeing said it will continue to work with the airline and its pilots to guarantee the safe return of the MAX to service.

          "We continue to support the regulators and our customers as we work to safely return the MAX to service," Boeing said.

          American Airlines has canceled MAX flights through December and its pilots also seek compensation for lost pay stemming from the plane's grounding, but they have not filed a lawsuit.

          Boeing has yet to submit updated software for the plane's anti-stall device to the Federal Aviation Administration for review. Other regulators then must approve the plane, and that could mean it will return to service at different times in different jurisdictions.

          In April, the FAA asked regulators from nine countries, including China, to participate in the review of the US regulator's oversight and approval of the Boeing 737 MAX's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an automated anti-stall device. Investigators believe MCAS may have erroneously pointed the nose of the plane down to gain speed to prevent a mid-air stall and into a fatal plunge.

          The crashes Oct 29, 2018, in Indonesia and March 30 in Ethiopia killed 346 passengers and crew. China was the first to ground the MAX, and the US was the last.

          Meanwhile, Russian carrier Aeroflot canceled its order for 22 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, including 18 of the smaller 787-8s and four 787-9s. But Air New Zealand ordered eight Dreamliner 787-10s, the largest model.

          Boeing has delivered 302 commercial planes so far this year. Rival Airbus delivered 571 jets January to September this year. Last year, Boeing said it delivered 806 planes, eclipsing its previous record of 763 in 2017. In 2018, Airbus delivered 800 commercial aircraft, up 11.42 percent from the 718 planes delivered in 2017.

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