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New FAA chief: No timeline on 737 Max return to service

By
Darryl Coote
A Boeing 737 Max is seen at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget , France, on June 19, 2017. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
A Boeing 737 Max is seen at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget , France, on June 19, 2017. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- The new chief of the Federal Aviation Administration said the organization is "very sorry" for the lives lost in two 737 Max airplane crashes and that there is no timeline for the plane's return to service.

Stephen Dickson, former senior vice president of flight operation for Delta Air Lines, made the comments Monday after being sworn in as the agency's 18th administrator.

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"I want to again be clear and absolutely committed, that the FAA is a safety-driven organization and safety is my highest priority," Dickson said. "This plane will not fly commercial service again until I'm completely assured that it is safe to do so."

The 737 Max by U.S. aircraft carrier Boeing has been grounded the world over for months following two crashes overseas that killed 346 people.

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In October, Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 crashed, killing all 189 passengers. In March, 157 people died when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed. Blame has been laid on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which caused both of the accidents as the system erroneously activated shortly after takeoff, diving the planes toward the ground believing they were stalling.

"My heart, my prayers, go out to the families of those who perished in Indonesia and Ethiopia," he said.

Concerning when the embattled plane will be able to fly again, he said only time will tell.

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"We're going where the facts lead us and diligently ensuring that all technology and training is present and current before the plane returns to passenger service," he said.

In July, Boeing posted its largest quarterly loss, in large part due to the $5 billion charge related to the groundings.

Dickson was sworn in Monday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who said in a release that she is "grateful" to acting administrator Dan Elwell's "steady and principled leadership during an especially challenging time in the FAA's history."

Dickson was confirmed by the Senate July 24 with a 52-40 vote.

"I am honored to join the outstanding team at the Federal Aviation Administration and look forward to ensuring our aviation system maintains its proper place, leading the world in both safety and operational performance," Dickson said. "Nowhere else in the world sees the volume, complexity and pace of innovation that we have in America."

In becoming the head of the FAA, Dickson will lead the agency that operates more than 50,000 flights per day while overseeing a $16.4-billion budget and more than 47,000 employees, the FAA said.

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