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Cantwell pushes to clear Boeing's final 737 Max models, with conditions

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Political News

In what could be good news for Boeing, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington on Tuesday circulated draft legislation that would clear the way for the final two Boeing 737 Max models to enter service without changes to the Renton-assembled aircraft.

The Washington Democrat's legislative amendment would remove the deadline in a 2020 law that threatens to force Boeing to substantially change the crew alerting systems on the Max 7 and Max 10 models to get them certified to fly passengers.

In an interview, Cantwell said her amendment, while letting the Max 7 and Max 10 move forward, also includes conditions that would require all airlines to retrofit two significant safety enhancements on the Max 8 and Max 9 models currently in service.

She said the amendment puts no deadline on certification of the Max 7 and 10, and will require the retrofit probably within two to three years.

Cantwell said her aim is to head off attempts by Republicans to insert alternative amendments into the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, that would give Boeing "a clean extension and call it a day" without any conditions attached.

"Mitch McConnell, I know for a fact, asked three or four times in the recent NDAA negotiations if he could move a straight extension," Cantwell said.

 

That politicians are scrambling to get some amendment through in the end-of-year legislative rush to relax the law signals imminent relief for Boeing.

The Max 7, the smallest variant, is crucial to the plans of the biggest 737 customer, Southwest Airlines. And the Max 10, the largest variant, has won multiple orders from Alaska Airlines, Delta, United and others.

Whether Cantwell's or competing amendments will become law is unclear.

The ranking Republican on her Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., filed an amendment to the NDAA in September that would have extended the deadline for Boeing until September 2024, with no conditions. That amendment is still alive.

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