U.S. air-safety regulators are set to begin key flight tests of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max as early as Monday, with the aim of returning the planes to service around the end of the year, according to a person familiar with the details.

The airborne checks, slated to be conducted in conjunction with Boeing

and scheduled to last three days, mark a long-awaited milestone for getting the Max fleet back in the air. The planes have been grounded for 15 months following two accidents that killed 346 people and dealt the biggest blow to the plane maker’s reputation in its 103-year history.

The crashes, which occurred less than five months apart in late 2018 and early 2019, kicked off debates in Congress and throughout the industry about Federal Aviation Administration procedures and safeguards for approving the safety of new jetliner designs. The deaths also prompted substantial changes in decades-old assumptions about how typical pilots interact with complex cockpit automation.

A Boeing spokesman said, “We continue to work diligently on safely returning the Max to service.”

The FAA gave the green light late Friday for such flights to start as early as Monday, according to the person familiar with the details. FAA officials have consistently said they wouldn’t move toward certifying test flights or other action to recertify the Max until all the agency’s questions and concerns were answered satisfactorily.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com:

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