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FAA announces public comment period for proposed changes to grounded Boeing 737 Max fleet

The FAA said it would allow 45 days for public comment on Boeing's proposed changes to the plane and pilot-training procedures.

MOSES LAKE, Wash. — Federal safety officials are spelling out the design changes they believe are needed for the Boeing 737 Max. 

The 737 Max fleet has been grounded since March 2019 after two deadly crashes. 

On Monday, The Federal Aviation Administration proposed to require software changes in the flight-control computers and changes to some of the plane's wiring. 

Those issues have been raised in the time since the first crash, which happened in October 2018. 

The FAA said it would allow 45 days for public comment on Boeing's proposed changes to the plane and pilot-training procedures to address problems found during investigations of the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which together killed 346 people.

Investigators have focused on a flight-control system, new to the Max, that pushed the nose of both planes down based on faulty readings from sensors. Boeing has been working to fix the system and make other changes since shortly after the first crash, in October 2018.

The FAA said posting the proposed airworthiness directive is an "important milestone," but a "number of key steps remain" before passengers are allowed back on Max jets. The agency will publish a final safety directive. 

Separately, regulators from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Brazil will review proposed minimum pilot-training requirements. Boeing and the FAA recently flew a series of test flights

"The FAA will not speculate when the work will be completed," the agency said in a statement. "We will lift the grounding order only after FAA safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards."

It's not clear when Max jets will fly again. Boeing is aiming for approval before the year-end.

RELATED: Virus and grounded plane send Boeing to $2.4 billion 2Q loss

Not only does Boeing need to meet FAA guidelines, but also has to bounce back from coronavirus impacts.

Boeing losses reached $2.4 billion in the second quarter and the company will slow production and cut more jobs as demand for commercial aircraft withers in the pandemic.

The losses were far worse than Wall Street expected, as was the decline in revenue, which fell 25%.

“The reality is the pandemic’s impact on the aviation sector continues to be severe," CEO David Calhoun said. “This pressure on our commercial customers means they are delaying jet purchases, slowing deliveries, deferring elective maintenance, retiring older aircraft and reducing spend — all of which affects our business and, ultimately, our bottom line.”

Calhoun said it will take around three years to return to 2019 passenger levels. On Tuesday, an airline industry trade group said air travel won’t recover to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024, a year longer than its previous forecast. The International Air Transport Association cited the inability of the United States and developing countries to contain the coronavirus.

RELATED: Boeing 737 engine issue prompts FAA emergency inspection order

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