Test flights to recertify the Boeing 737 MAX are due to start tomorrow. According to sources close to the matter, a three-day process is scheduled to trial the airworthiness of the jet ahead of its reintroduction.
Pilots will test the 737 MAX tomorrow
It may not be all that long until the 737 MAX saga comes to an agreeable resolution, and we see the aircraft back in our skies. After two fatal crashes that led to the grounding of the plane back in March 2019, it will be quite a feat to see the 737 MAX operational once again.
That said, the want for it to come back is not enough to justify its return to service. The 737 MAX has already undergone a series of revisions to get it in working order. According to Boeing’s MAX Updates webpage, the airframer has added three extra layers of protection to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and safety updates to the flight control software.
Boeing has also carried out over 1,000 test and production flights to ensure that the 737 MAX is safe to fly again. Next week marks a significant advancement in the pre-certification prep. On Monday, pilots from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing will begin testing the aircraft anew.
What will the tests look like?
While Boeing has already tested out the 737 MAX to some degree, the focus for the next three days will be on pushing the aircraft to its limits. The tests will begin with a briefing in Seattle. After that, the practical assessment in a 737 MAX 7 will take place over Washington state and the Pacific Ocean, with some focus on Moses Lake.
Pilots and crews will be testing the aircraft across a range of scenarios, including touch-and-go landings. In addition, teams will navigate mid-air situations, starting with steep-banking turns advancing to more extreme stunts.
Crucially, the tests will be vital for assessing the new and improved MCAS software. Pilots will need to be able to work with the system in the same way crews did in the moments leading up to the two fatal MAX crashes. The purpose of this test is to ensure that pilots could stop further crashes in the future.
When will the 737 MAX return to service?
However, while this is all good news, it’s best not to get your hopes up straight away. It might not be until September that the 737 MAX is flying commercial passenger service again. That’s because this phase, while advanced, leaves more steps to follow. Once the three-day training is complete, flight data will be analyzed in Washington and Seattle by the FAA. What these organizations see will determine whether the aircraft type is fit for recertification.
After that, the 18th Administrator of the FAA, Steve Dickson, will assess the aircraft, and only then will it be signed off for use.
Before that happens, the FAA and Boeing should feel pretty confident that the MAX will pass its final checks. Speaking to Reuters, a source knowledgeable with the tests said that,
“The last thing the FAA or Boeing wants is for the Administrator to do his own flight and say ‘it’s not ready.’ Boeing wants Dickson’s flight to be a coronation.”
It will then be a case of retraining pilots on the new software and operation of the 737 MAX before it’s scheduled into airline networks.
How well do you think the 737 MAX tests will go? Have your say in the comments.