For over a year now, Boeing has been hard at work trying to fix the flawed flight control systems on its 737 MAX after two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. Now, according to sources, recertification test flights could begin as early as next Monday. These test flights will reportedly require about two or three days of flying.
“The team is making progress toward FAA certification flights in the near future. The FAA is reviewing Boeing’s documentation to determine whether the company has met the criteria to move to the next stage of evaluation. We will conduct the certification flights only after we are satisfied with that data.” –FAA via Reuters
Recertification flights could happen next week
According to the Seattle Times, sources within Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) say that recertification test flights could take place as early as next Monday. Other sources state that Tuesday is the earliest day this could begin. This means the series of flights and this upcoming round of recertification activity will primarily apply to flying within the United States. It could also apply to other civil aviation authorities that have their full confidence in the FAA’s process and decision.
“Our team continues to work closely with global regulators on the rigorous process they have laid out for certifying the updated software and training requirements. The regulators determine the ultimate timeline,” a Boeing spokesperson told Simple Flying.
If next week’s flights become a reality, the Seattle Times estimates that the MAX should be on track to win FAA clearance around mid-September. FAA clearance will allow for pilot training to begin, leading to US carriers potentially flying the MAX again before the end of 2020.
However, civil aviation authorities outside the United States may have their own recertification processes for the aircraft – meaning potentially different timelines for carriers outside the US.
More recertification flights to follow
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is just one example of another agency, in addition to the FAA, that will want to carry out its own recertification process.
However, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have prevented travelers from European Union countries from entering the United States. Janet Northcote, head of communications at the EASA, says that this has so far prevented EASA from scheduling its MAX recertification flights.
The Seattle Times reports that regulators in Europe and Canada have demanded design changes to the flight control systems on the 737 MAX. These changes go beyond fixing the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
“[MCAS] absolutely needs to be fixed for the plane to be recertified as airworthy … there are other issues in some way related to the sensor problem…By themselves, these would not create a safety critical issue…It’s when they come together with something critical at the same time that it’s a major issue.” -Janet Northcote, Head of Communications, EASA
Sources indicate that EASA and Transport Canada have identified a number of issues requiring redesign. The two regulators will conduct their own independent safety assessments of the MAX recertification rather than automatically following the lead of the FAA.
If things progress next week, how do you think FAA recertification flights will go? Let us know in the comments.