Boeing can begin test flights of the 737 Max, FAA says

Clay Curtis
June 29, 2020

Boeing's worst crisis in its corporate history has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic that brought the travel industry to a grinding halt and dented aircraft demand. The company had initially hoped the plane would fly again before the end of 2019, but the effort hit a number of roadblocks, including a new software issue that was discovered in February. That includes hundreds of hours inside a 737 MAX flight simulator at Boeing's Longacres facility in Renton, Washington, and hundreds of hours in the air on the same 737 MAX 7 test airplane without FAA officials on board.

Sources said that FAA pilots will intentionally trigger the stall-prevention software known as MCAS - which failed in the fatal crashes that led to the Max's grounding.

Reuters cited two people briefed of the matter as saying that a certification flight test, which is expected to last at least two days, could begin as early as Tuesday, but still hasn't been finalized.

The FAA confirmed to USA lawmakers on Sunday that an agency board had completed a review of Boeing's safety system assessment for the 737 MAX "clearing the way for flight certification testing to begin".

Boeing's 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal crashes killed 346 people.

The sources say that the plane's return would not likely be approved until September. "The FAA's return-to-service decision will rest exclusively on the agency's analysis of the data to determine whether Boeing's proposed software updates and pilot training address the factors that led to the grounding of the aircraft".

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Boeing said it deferred to the FAA and global regulators on the Max certification process.

The flight tests are aimed at ensuring the new updates that Boeing made to the MCAS are sufficient to prevent the scenarios that pilots on the crash flights encountered.

The planes have been grounded for a total of 15 months so far, CNN reported, and the tests will address "multiple fixes" to the plane's safety systems.

The agency added that it has not made a decision on whether the jet can return to service.

"The FAA is continuing to adhere to a data-driven, methodical analysis, review and validation of the modified flight-control systems and pilot training required to safely return the 737 Max to commercial service", said the regulator in a June 17 statement.

The crew will run methodically scripted mid-air scenarios such as steep-banking turns, progressing to more extreme maneuvers on a route primarily over Washington state.

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