Nov. 27 (UPI) -- The Federal Aviation Administration says it won't clear the grounded Boeing 737 Max for a return to service until it is ready to do so, throwing doubt on company hopes they could resume flying as soon as next month.
FAA officials said in a statement Tuesday, its third regarding the 737 Max in recent weeks, that it has full control of the aircraft's re-certification process and will conduct assessments of its airworthiness at its own pace.
"The FAA has not completed its review of the 737 Max aircraft design changes and associated pilot training," the statement read. "The agency will not approve the aircraft for return to service until it has completed numerous rounds of rigorous testing."
The 737 Max has been grounded around the world since March following two crashes overseas that killed 346 people. 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.
Boeing said on Nov. 11 it was possible the fleet could return in December, but acknowledged January was more likely.
"We are working towards final validation of the updated training requirements, which must occur before the Max returns to commercial service, and which we now expect to begin in January," it said.
Four days after that statement, however, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson posted a video message to agency employees in which he voiced support for their efforts to control the timeline of the 737 Max process.
"I know there's a lot of pressure to return this aircraft to service quickly," Dickson said. "But I want you to know I want you to take the time you need and focus solely on safety. I've got your back."
U.S. carriers who fly the 737 Max -- United, American and Southwest -- have pulled them from their schedules until at least March. Boeing is also dealing with another potential problem involving its 737 "Next Generation" variant.