European Union air safety regulators have completed flight testing the 737 MAX, another milestone in the effort by Boeing (NYSE:BA) to return the plane to service 18 months after it was grounded due to a pair of fatal accidents.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency in a statement Friday said it will now analyze data and other information gathered from the test flights ahead of a Joint Operations Evaluation Board meeting scheduled to begin next week in London.
The European test flights follow a similar effort performed by U.S. and Canadian regulators. European flight tests were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which made travel to Boeing's Seattle area operations center difficult and forced the tests to be conducted out of Vancouver, Canada.
Boeing had initially hoped to get the 737 MAX flying again by the end of the current quarter, but due to COVID-19, the timetable has been pushed back to the fourth quarter.
Recertification is the first step in Boeing's plan to reverse cash burn of nearly $10 billion in the first half of 2020. The company is sitting on an inventory of 400 737 MAX planes manufactured but not yet delivered, and will get a much-needed cash boost once restrictions are lifted and Boeing is able to resume placing planes with customers.
Even after the plane is recertified, Boeing is likely in for a long and arduous destocking process. The COVID-19 pandemic has eaten into airline industry profits and has dampened demand for new planes.
Boeing, prior to the March 2019 grounding, had hoped to be manufacturing more than 55 737 MAX jets per month by now. Instead, the company will likely manufacture fewer than 80 in all of 2020 and hopes to gradually rebuild production to 31 planes per month by 2022.