Boeing remains hopeful the 737 Max will return to the skies before the end of the year, CEO Dennis Muilenberg said Wednesday.
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The aircraft was grounded in March after being involved in two fatal crashes in a less than five-month span.
"We are making good solid progress on the software update to the airplane," Muilenberg said at the Morgan Stanley Laguna Conference in Laguna Niguel, California. "Versions of that final software in our integration labs and simulators being tested and we are still targeting early fourth for our return to service for the 737 Max."
He added: “Once this is finalized and we certify the airplane, it’s going to be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly.”
The March grounding forced Boeing to slow production of the aircraft from 52 per month to 42 per month. Additionally, its order book has suffered. The planemaker didn't receive a single 737 Max order in the first half of the year, and Saudi Arabia's flyadeal in July pulled an order for 50 Max jets in favor of rival Airbus.
And ahead of its July second-quarter earnings release, Boeing announced a $4.9 billion writedown related to the grounding of the 737 Max. Still, the company intends to ramp production up as soon as possible.
"We have 4,400 planes in backlog and our intent is to ramp up to 57 a month," Muilenberg said Wednesday. "The timing on that will be determined, but the endpoint is very clear."
Muilenberg is still optimistic about Boeing's future.
"I do see this as a real defining moment for Boeing," he said.
"Through the Max situation we are going to stay true to our values around integrity and safety and quality and I firmly believe that on the backside of getting the Max back into service we will be a better, stronger company.”