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Pilots' unions in Southwest say Boeing may be trying to accelerate 737 MAX return

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of Southwest Airlines' pilot union slammed Boeing Co on Wednesday and asked if the manufacturer was trying to speed up the timing of the 737 MAX service return.

FILO PHOTO: A number of Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8s are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California, USA, March 26, 2019. REUTERS / Mike Blake / File Photo

The best-selling Boeing 737 MAX has been established since March, after two fatal accidents killed 346 people in five months, and has come under sharp criticism from US lawmakers.

On Wex, who is president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), in a note to pilots on Wednesday reviewed by Reuters, said that "Boeing is increasingly announcing they may have to close their production line due to a leak. storage space for completed MAX aircraft. There is concern that this is simply another tactic to push the timeline (service return) up. “

He added that this would "force operators to continue paying MAX aircraft and transfer some of the costs, logistics and responsibilities of storing and returning MAX to the revenue service of the respective operators".

Boeing did not immediately comment late Wednesday.

Southwest Airlines spokesman Brandy King said the airline was "confident in the work done to return the MAX service and continues to await further Boeing and JAA guidance on timing and next steps".

On Monday, Boeing spokesman Gordon Johondro told Reuters that "we expect Max to be authorized, a mid-December airworthiness directive was issued." He added that the company expects "pilot training requirements to be approved in January". .

Boeing noted that "the JAA and other regulators will finally determine the return of the service."

Two federal officials told Reuters this week that Boeing's schedule is aggressive and far from certain, citing obstacles that have yet to be cleared.

Boeing still needs to complete its software documentation review before it can schedule a flight for a key certification test.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dixon said Tuesday that the agency did not "delegate" anything to Boeing in its review and did not offer an unfounded timetable, saying it would "rely solely on our assessment of the adequacy of the proposed software updates." of Boeing and pilot training. "

On Friday, Southwest and American Airlines extended the cancellation of the Boeing 737 MAX until early March, only shy of the one-year anniversary of the Ethiopian Airlines crash that led to worldwide grounding.

Last month, SWAPA sued Boeing, saying it "deliberately misled" the airline and the pilots. The ground wiped out more than 30,000 Southwest Airlines flights, causing over $ 100 million in lost pay to pilots, the union said.

Reporting by David Hepperson; additional reporting by Tracy Rusinski in New York. Editing by Gary Doyle

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