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Boeing 737 MAX jets unlikely to resume flying in 2019, US regulator says

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is unlikely to lift the grounding of Boeing Co.'s 737 MAX aircraft before the end of 2019, the head of the regulatory body said Dec. 11, maintaining that there is no timeline set for the flight certification process for the troubled jets.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said the certification process would "extend into 2020" and that there are still 10 or 11 steps that need to be completed before the 737 MAX airplanes can resume flying.

"We're going to follow every step of the process, however long that takes," Dickson said in an interview with CNBC ahead of his testimony at a U.S. House committee hearing.

The 737 MAX jets have been grounded since March following a fatal crash that month and a prior one in October 2018. The continued grounding has taken a heavy toll on Boeing's earnings and its commercial aircraft deliveries.

Boeing said in November that it was aiming for the fourth quarter of 2019 to get FAA certification of the software updates for the 737 MAX flight control system, which has been blamed for the plane crashes.

Boeing was also expecting to resume deliveries of 737 MAX planes to airlines as early as December before their potential return to commercial service in the following month.

An internal review by the FAA following the October 2018 crash predicted that without software changes, 15 more crashes involving the 737 MAX aircraft could take place. The review was released during the congressional hearing.

Dickson told lawmakers at the hearing that the FAA is investigating production issues involving the Boeing 737, Reuters reported.