Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson met with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg at FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to tell him to pull back on public statements about an imminent return to service for the 737 Max.
Meanwhile, American Airlines announced that with the Max's return already slipping by at least another month, it's pushing the Max out of its schedule until early April.
Boeing has repeatedly said it expects FAA clearance for the Max to fly commercially again by year end. Dickson on Wednesday said publicly that the schedule for approving a return to service had slipped into 2020.
Dickson called for the meeting, also attended by new Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss Stan Deal, in part because Boeing's public statements seemed designed to press for the FAA to provide clearance soon. An email the FAA sent Thursday to the House and Senate aviation oversight committees makes clear Dickson wants that to stop.
"The Administrator is concerned that Boeing continues to pursue a return-to-service schedule that is not realistic due to delays that have accumulated for a variety of reasons," the email states. "More concerning, the Administrator wants to directly address the perception that some of Boeing's public statements have been designed to force FAA into taking quicker action."
"The Administrator wants to make clear that both FAA and Boeing must take the time to get this process right. Safety is our top priority and the Administrator believes public statements must reflect this priority," the email states. "The purpose of the meeting is to ensure Boeing is clear on FAA's expectations."
"Safety is our top priority and the Administrator believes public statements must reflect this priority," the FAA email adds.
The FAA said Dickson recommended to Muilenburg "that Boeing's focus should be on the quality and timeliness of data submittals for FAA review."
"He made clear that FAA's certification requirements must be 100% complete before return to service," the email states. "In terms of timeline, he reminded Mr. Muilenburg that FAA controls the review process and that he has told FAA's aviation safety experts working on continued review of the 737 Max to take the time they need to get this right and they have his full support."
Dickson also took the opportunity to promote an idea he talked about in his appearance Wednesday in a U.S. House Committee hearing: that Boeing introduce into its manufacturing and development processes the FAA Safety Management System (SMS).