By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it is inviting top civil aviation officials from around the world to a May 23 meeting to discuss the now-grounded Boeing 737 MAX.
The aircraft has been involved in two deadly crashes since October. The FAA said the meeting "is intended to provide participants the FAA’s safety analysis that will inform its decision to return the 737 MAX fleet to service in the U.S. when it is made."
The FAA, which did not disclose where the meeting will take place, said that at the May 23 meeting it will "provide safety experts to answer any questions participants have related to their respective decisions to return the fleet to service." It will not include Boeing at the meeting.
The meeting is separate from a joint governmental review of the Boeing 737 MAX led by the FAA that will begin on April 29 and will include nine other aviation regulators from around the world. The FAA has said a decision on when to unground the plane is separate from that joint review.
Boeing has announced a planned software update on the 737 MAX to prevent erroneous data from triggering an anti-stall system known as MCAS that is under scrutiny following the two disastrous nose-down crashes. It has not yet submitted the software to the FAA for formal approval.
Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said last week the manufacturer is making “steady progress” on the path to certifying a software update to the grounded 737 MAX and has made the final test flight before a certification flight.
The FAA said this month it was forming an international team to review the safety of the aircraft, grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes - in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia last month - that killed nearly 350 people.
China, the European Aviation Safety Agency, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates will all take part in the review set to last 90 days, the FAA said.
The review is chaired by former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Chris Hart and is comprised of a team of experts from the FAA, NASA and international aviation authorities. The group will conduct a comprehensive review of the certification of the aircraft’s automated flight control system.
American Airlines and Southwest Airlines Co have canceled flights into August as a result of the grounding.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Cynthia Osterman)