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US spending bill gives Boeing reprieve on latest MAX models

NEW YORK (AFP) – Boeing has won a reprieve from a regulatory deadline for the new versions of the 737 MAX under the USD1.7 trillion spending bill approved by Congress on Friday.

The bill, which cleared its final legislative hurdle on Friday with passage in the House of Representatives, requires Boeing to make some enhancements to the jets, but allows the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to approve both the 737 MAX 7 and 737 MAX 10 without mandating an overhaul of the crew alerting systems.

Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun had said in July that the company might scrap the MAX 10 if it had to meet the changed standard.

More recently, Boeing officials have expressed confidence Congress would provide relief. The company declined comment on Friday.

A December 2020 law enacted by the United States (US) Congress required the FAA to certify planes only if equipped with a flight crew alerting system designed to help pilots prioritise warnings and advisories activated during flight.

The 2020 law – enacted to enhance safety after two MAX crashes led to a combined 346 fatalities – gave the FAA until December 27, 2022 to certify MAX models already under review without having to meet the new requirements. Boeing has argued the benefit of the MAX’s “commonality” with earlier versions of the jets, which enabled pilots experienced in those earlier versions to easily transition to newer models.

Under a measure introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state, a Democrat, Boeing must retrofit MAX planes currently flying to improve the safety sensor system with features currently being designed for the MAX 10.

The bill requires the enhancements to be installed on other MAX models within three years of the date of the FAA certification of the MAX 10.

Boeing airplane models on display. PHOTO: XINHUA