The Boeing 737 MAX has completed its test flights under the supervision of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing. A 737 MAX 7 aircraft, the smaller brother of the MAX 8 involved in the accidents, was put through its paces for a total of 10 hours over the course of three days this week.
Test flights completed
The beleaguered Boeing 737 MAX has completed its recertification tests, edging the narrowbody jet closer to the end of its grounding, which has so far lasted for more than 15 months. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing began tests on Monday and announced the completion of the test flights late yesterday.
Although the flight tests took place over three days, the total flying time amounted to just over 10 hours, during which time a Boeing 737 MAX 7 was put through its paces around the Seattle area. The aircraft, registered N7201S, is a two-year-old MAX 7, which will eventually be delivered to Southwest Airlines.
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The first day of tests saw two separate flights take off. The first departed from Boeing Field in Seattle at just before 10:00 in the morning. The aircraft flew directly to Moses Lake, where it underwent some maneuvering exercises before landing at Boeing’s Moses Lake facility. The flight lasted just over two hours.
The same day, the plane took off again from Moses Lake at around 12:30 and performed a number of relatively low altitude exercises, before heading back to Seattle to land at 14:15. The flying time here was an hour and 45 minutes. That concluded day one of the flight tests.
Day two, June 30th, saw the aircraft take off from Seattle’s Boeing Field at 10:35 in the morning. This time the aircraft passed over Moses Lake before heading southeast across Idaho, performing some high altitude maneuvers over Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forests. It flew for almost four hours before landing back at Moses Lake, touching down at 14:30. Later that day, it returned to Seattle but took a direct route, so this was unlikely a test flight.
The final day of flying, Wednesday, July 1st, saw the Boeing 737 MAX 7 take off from Seattle at 10:22, this time heading south over Mount Rainier National Park. It completed some tight turns at altitude before undertaking a series of interesting low-level maneuvers in the skies above southern Washington state. The flight landed back in Seattle two hours and 17 minutes later.
What happens next?
The tests of Boeing’s proposed changes to the flight control systems on the MAX appear to have passed without incident. While this is a crucial moment for Boeing, it’s just the start of a relatively long road to recertification of the type.
The FAA now needs to compile and review all the data from these test flights, as well as approving proposed procedures for training pilots on the type. Other steps will need to be taken towards certification, with Reuters suggesting this will not happen until mid-September.
And, of course, certification by the FAA will only mean the aircraft can operate in the US. While we may see some US airlines resuming services before the end of the year, similar certification will be required from other regulators before the aircraft can fly elsewhere.