FAA approves Boeing 737 Max return to flight, but Canada holds back

Clay Curtis
November 19, 2020

"Through this directive, the FAA is mandating its approved changes made to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, and confirms it can return to service in USA airspace".

The nation's air safety agency announced the move early Wednesday, saying it was done after a "comprehensive and methodical" 20-month review process.

Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a news release that today's FAA directive was an "important milestone" but agreed that there's a lot of work still to be done.

American Airlines has said it plans to begin service on the MAX at the end of December for service in between NY and Miami.

But on December 17, after the FAA made it clear the MAX would not return to the skies anytime soon, Boeing announces it will halt production of its flagship aircraft in January 2020, for an indefinite period. The design changes that were made for the next-generation 737 MAX planes, changed the planes' aerodynamic characteristics.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Wednesday that Canada will impose its own requirements - different from those approved in the USA - before it lifts the grounding orders for the plane, including additional procedures on the flight deck and during pre-flight and changes in training for flight operators.

A principal cause of the two crashes was identified as a faulty safety system that was supposed to keep the plane from stalling as it ascended but instead forced the nose of the plane downward. In each case, a single sensor caused the problem.

Indonesian authorities publish a preliminary report on the Lion Air crash on November 28, 2018 - months before the second disaster - citing inadequate pilot training and flawed design and certification of the MCAS flight control software.

The new software now requires inputs from two sensors in order to activate the software. "Boeing might also provide support as SpiceJet's survival is crucial for Boeing to have a continued presence in India", it said in the report.

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The FAA could take new enforcement actions or issue new civil penalties against Boeing over the 737 MAX and on other issues stemming from a 2014 settlement agreement, but Dickson did not elaborate.

On CNBC Wednesday, Dickson said the design and pilot training changes required by the FAA "makes it impossible for the airplanes to have the same kind of accident that unfortunately killed 346 people".

Shares of Boeing shot up early Wednesday, rising 6.6 percent to $224.00 in pre-market trading.

Dickson acknowledged there was fragmented communication within the FAA and between the FAA and Boeing during the 737 MAX certification.

Almost 400 Max jets were in service worldwide when they were grounded, and Boeing has built and stored about 450 more since then.

"The whole thing has had more scrutiny than any airplane in the world", he said. They'll also have to make the wiring changes, and go through detailed maintenance procedures to get planes that have been stored for more than a year ready for flight again. However, congressional investigators discovered an FAA analysis - conducted after the first Max crash - that predicted there would be 15 more crashes during the plane's life span if the flight-control software were not fixed.

Dickson said he said expects other worldwide regulators will "complete their work within a relatively short period of time".

Boeing also faces lawsuits from victims' families.

Relatives say it's too soon, and they and their lawyers say Boeing and the FAA are withholding documents.

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