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American Airlines cancels Boeing 737 Max flights until at least April

Boeing CEO admits mistakes in 737 Max hearing

American Airlines, the world's largest airline, has, once again, delayed its plans to resume operations of the Boeing 737 Max fleet, which was grounded after two deadly crashes in just one year.

The Federal Aviation Administration made clear on Thursday that it would not sign off on the plane's return to service this year. The aircraft manufacturer Boeing said that it's working "to safely return the Max to service in 2020." But the FAA pushed back on that timeline.

"When the 737 Max is returned to service, it will be because the safety issues have been addressed and pilots have received all the training they need to safely operate the aircraft. This process is not guided by a calendar or a schedule," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday.

As recently as last month, Boeing said it expected to resume deliveries of the 737 Max before the end of the year — a claim that roiled FAA officials.

"Boeing's focus should be on the quality and timeliness of data submittals for FAA review," the government agency said in an email to Congress on Thursday. "FAA's certification requirements must be 100% complete before return to service."

American Airlines announced that it would remove the 737 Max from its flight schedule until at least April 7. This is the ninth time the airline has modified its flight schedule due to the grounding, and it will result in at least 140 canceled flights, a day, between March 17 and April 6.

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Michael Stumo and Nadia Milleron, the parents of Ethiopian Air crash victim Samya Stumo, attend a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Aviation Subcommittee hearing on the status of the Boeing 737 MAX on May 15, 2019. Nicholas Kamm

Boeing's CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, was grilled by Congress in October about evidence that he and other Boeing executives were warned about the aircraft's safety issues before the first crash. 

After Milenburg's congressional testimony, the union for American Airlines' flight attendants said its 28,000 members "refuse to walk on a plane that may not be safe." Both crashes killed a total of 346 people.

The FAA administrator and the Boeing CEO met in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Boeing said it was "productive."

"Boeing reaffirmed with the FAA that safety is our top shared priority, and we committed to addressing all of the FAA's questions as they assess MAX certification and training requirements," a company spokesman said in a statement.

American expects to gradually phase in the 737 Max for commercial service throughout the month of April. Southwest and United have removed the 737 Max from their flight schedules until at least March.

Dickson has offered a personal assurance that the planes will only be back in the air if they're safe: "I will be flying the airplane myself before I sign off on it."

Also on Thursday, Southwest, the largest operator of the 737, announced that it reached a settlement with Boeing over the Max grounding. While terms of the agreement were not released, Southwest said it intends to share approximately $125 million of the settlement with its employees.

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