A Boeing 737 Max aircraft
A 737 Max aircraft at the Boeing factory in Renton. Image Credit: Reuters

Boeing Co.’s 737 Max will likely not be back in the skies before the end of this year because of a fall-out in cooperation between the US Federal Aviation Administration and other national regulators, according to Tim Clark, president of Emirates.

“You’re going to have a bit of a delay in terms of regulators, Canada, Europe, China,” Clark told reporters at the IATA annual meeting in Seoul. “It’s going to take time to get this aircraft back in the air. If it’s in the air by Christmas I’ll be surprised.”

Should Clark be right, the plane will be grounded longer than what at least one customer said Boeing has told them - that the aircraft could fly again as soon as July. Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul airline, itself doesn’t operate the 737 Max, but it has partnerships with low-cost carrier flydubai, which has more than a dozen Max planes in its fleet and many more due to be delivered.

Boeing “should accept that unless they get all regulators on board, irrespective of how good or how well they think they’ve fixed the aircraft, it’s not going to work,” Clark said. “It’s going to antagonize a lot of people if they insist that this aircraft is safe to fly.”

The 737 Max, a two-year-old model that has racked up thousands of orders, was grounded in March after a second crash triggered a wave of no-fly orders that started in China and ended with the U.S. Airlines are now calling on aviation regulators worldwide to work together to get the jet back in the skies and to prevent the regulatory response from splintering and slowing its return.

Beyond a regulatory approval for plane improvements Boeing is working on, changes in pilot-training requirements may cause further delays, Clark said. Regulators are likely to make training on 737 Max simulators mandatory, and there are just a few such machines available globally, he said.

Clark also said regulators are now set to take a more stringent view on Boeing’s next plane, the 777X, which is targeted to begin commercial flights in 2020. Boeing is seeking regulatory approval for the jet which, just like the 737 Max, is an update of an existing model.