Boeing 737 MAX certification extension not in current defense bill – sources

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate amendment to extend a December deadline for Boeing (NYSE:BA) Co to win regulatory approval for the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 10 jetliners is not part of the latest version of an annual defense bill, according to sources and documents seen by Reuters.

Late last month, Republican Senator Roger Wicker proposed extending the deadline for the U.S. planemaker to win approval for the two new 737 variants until September 2024.

Unless it gains an extension from Congress, Boeing must meet new modern cockpit-alerting requirements that could significantly delay the planes’ entry into service. Wicker had sought to attach the measure to the version of the defense bill that was filed on Tuesday.

The requirements were adopted by Congress as part of certification reform passed after two fatal 737 MAX crashes killed 346 people and led to the bestselling plane’s 20-month grounding.

Wicker, who is the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, did not immediately comment.

There are other opportunities to make changes to the defense bill and an extension could be potentially attached to other measures Congress will consider before the end of the year.

On Friday, the union representing about 10,000 Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) pilots told Reuters it supports the extension, while the Allied Pilots Association representing 15,000 American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) pilots said it opposes it.

Both American and Southwest fly the MAX 8. Southwest has ordered 192 MAX 7 planes. Boeing has an estimated 1,000 orders and commitments for MAX 7 and 10s.

Boeing argues it is safer to have one common 737 cockpit alerting system. “A consistent operational experience across an airplane family is an industry best practice that benefits flight crews and the flying public by enhancing safety and reducing risk,” Boeing said.

Reuters reported last week Boeing does not anticipate winning regulatory approval for the MAX 10 before next summer, according to a Federal Aviation Administration letter.