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Boeing 737 MAX grounding to extend beyond mid-year

The 737 MAX crisis continues to shake the US aerospace giant. Boeing said the aircraft wouldn't return to service until mid-year due to further issues that emerged during the regulatory review on the aircraft's flight control system.

Boeing said it has informed its customers and suppliers of the new estimate. The company had previously predicted that the 737 MAXs would return to service by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

The new delay also takes into account new proposed pilot training requirements.

Three U.S. airlines - American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines - had already postponed their scheduled 737 MAX flights until June.

They will now likely have to push back the timeline again. It could take at least 30 days to resume flights following the regulatory approval due to the time needed to prepare the planes and train pilots in the simulator.

Also read: New 737 MAX software issue may cause the aircraft to stay on the ground longer

Boeing has been updating the 737 MAX's stall-prevention software known as MCAS to return the aircraft to the service safely. MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) is believed to be the root cause of two deadly crashes that the model involved in less than six months.

Also read: How the Boeing MCAS System Really Works?

Boeing has also officially stopped assembling 737 MAX jets in its Renton factory on Jan. 20. The planemaker did not state how long the production halt would last. It said the company wouldn't lay off employees because of the shutdown, but things may be different for those who work for Boeing's suppliers.

Boeing's largest supplier Spirit Aerosystems announced that it was laying off a significant number of its workers because of the 737 MAX production suspension.

The difficult decision announced today is a necessary step given the uncertainty related to both the timing for resuming 737 Max production and the overall production levels that can be expected following the production suspension,

said Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile.

FAA and global regulators continue to assess the revisions made to the aircraft's flight control system.

Safety is our priority, and we are following a thorough, deliberate process to verify that all proposed modifications to the Boeing 737 MAX meet the highest certification standards,

said the FAA in a statement.

The FAA did not set a timeframe for when the review process will be completed.

On Jan. 13, Boeing said that it had notified the US Federal Aviation Administration about a new software issue, which concerns a unit monitoring whether the key flight control systems of the aircraft are working properly or not.

On the other hand, the company is trying to cope with financial losses due to the deepening crisis. According to the people who are familiar with the matter, Boeing is in talks with banks to secure a loan of $10 billion or more.

On Jan. 20, American aircraft leasing firm Air Lease Corporation (ALC) ceo Steven Udvar-Hazy called on the U.S. manufacturer to drop the MAX brand to prevent it undervalue the Boeing's best-selling jetliner.

“We’ve asked Boeing to get rid of that word MAX. I think that word MAX should go down in the history books as a bad name for an aircraft,” Udvar-Hazy said.

ALC has 150 737 MAX jets on order.