By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun said Thursday there is still a chance U.S. regulators could approve the 737 MAX 10 before the end of the year and he thinks the company will win approval for the smaller 737 MAX 7 in the coming months.
Boeing faces a late December deadline set by Congress to win certification of the two variants of the MAX before a new safety standard on cockpit alerts takes effect.
"We are working to finish. There's a chance but there's also a chance it doesn't," Calhoun told reporters on the sidelines of an aviation event. Calhoun said he thought the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would approve the 737 MAX 7 before the end of the year.
Calhoun said if needed, Boeing would seek "some kind of extension" and make a case based on the "safety argument to win."
Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said earlier Thursday that the agency would not commit to a timeline to approve the Boeing 737 MAX 7 or 10.
"We are working through that as purposefully as we can and we will get it done when we get it done," Nolen said.
Some Boeing customers and analysts do not think there is enough time remaining for the FAA to complete certification tasks before the deadline for the MAX 10 but think the MAX 7 could win approval later this year.
Calhoun said the review of the MAX 7 requires a big documentation effort in order to win approval and "is a demonstration that it is the process as opposed to the product."
Ryanair told Reuters in August that Boeing appears to have accepted it will not be able to certify its MAX 10 aircraft by year-end, but it remains possible that U.S. lawmakers could give it more time.
Nolen said Congress had required Boeing to submit system safety analyses as part of the 2020 aircraft certification reform bill and they must be approved by FAA before the planes can be approved. "That's a pretty heavy lift and it's a heavy lift for Boeing," Nolen said.
Congress could opt to waive those cockpit alerting requirements or give Boeing an extension. "We are going to let the 10 take whatever time takes to do it safely," Nolen said. "The decision as to whether or not it goes beyond the new year rests with Congress."
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Mark Porter, Matthew Lewis and Jonathan Oatis)