New York (AFP)

The aircraft manufacturer Boeing postponed Monday to January the date when it anticipates the return to the sky for commercial flights of its 737 MAX, grounded since March after two close accidents with 346 deaths, and not in December as planned until 'now.

According to a statement, the group still hopes to receive the green light from the US Aviation Regulatory Agency (FAA) for use of the aircraft in December and hopes to resume delivery of aircraft to its customers before the end of the year. But it provides that the update of the training for the 737 MAX, which must precede the resumption of commercial flights, be validated in January.

This new schedule was well received by the markets, the Boeing stock bouncing around 19:30 GMT 4.7% on the New York Stock Exchange.

US airlines Southwest and American Airlines, however, announced Friday that they postponed to March the date of a possible return to service of their own Boeing 737 MAX. Largest customer of the 737 MAX with 34 units in his fleet at the time of the grounding, Southwest must currently withdraw 175 flights from its daily program, which includes up to 4,000 flights per day.

But companies also need to take into account the time needed to train pilots and install modified software on their aircraft before they can re-enter their flight schedule.

- First step completed -

Boeing said Monday that it had finalized last week the first of five key steps before the resumption of commercial flights, namely the simulator evaluation by the FAA of the operation of the modified version of its software system. The aircraft manufacturer has notably changed the MCAS anti-stall system involved in the 737 MAX accidents.

The manufacturer must now conduct a session with airline pilots to assess human factors and crew workload under various conditions before FAA pilots test the final version of the modified system in flight.

Boeing will then submit to the regulatory agency all the material necessary for the final certification.

The last step before the resumption of commercial flights will be, according to Boeing, an evaluation by a committee composed of several regulatory agencies to validate the update of the training. After this session, the committee "will publish a report subject to a period of public consultation, followed by the final approval of the training," says the manufacturer.

The 737 MAX crisis is one of the most serious in Boeing's 103-year history. It has already cost him tens of billions of dollars, triggered multiple investigations by US authorities and a cascade of complaints from families of victims.

The Group's sales plummeted by 20 percent to $ 19.98 billion, with profits falling by a factor of two, down from a 67 percent drop in commercial aircraft deliveries in the third quarter. $ 1.17 billion.

When the results were published at the end of October, managing director Dennis Muilenburg admitted that if the anticipated date of resumption of service was postponed, "we would have to consider further reducing production and other options such as the temporary shutdown. the production of the MAX ".

However, if Boeing is now on a resumption of commercial flights in early 2020, uncertainty still looms.

The European Aviation Safety Agency had estimated in early November not to expect a resumption of flights of the Boeing 737 MAX in Europe before the first quarter of 2020, the time it conducts its own test flights, which it evaluates pilot training needs and coordinate with the EU Member States.

As for the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), criticized from all sides for entrusting the certification of important systems of the aircraft to Boeing, she promised a thorough inspection.

Pilot training remains a contentious point: Europe and Canada require training on flight simulators while Americans would simply upgrade to a much faster computer.

© 2019 AFP