How Will Regulators Test The Boeing 737 MAX Fix?

High on Boeing’s list of priorities is returning the 737 MAX to service. As Boeing works on a software solution, the FAA is working on their plans to recertify the aircraft. Central to the recertification is how pilots will be able to deal with the MCAS system in case of issues. Now, new reports indicate that the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, will test the Boeing 737 MAX with pilots who have limited experience with Boeing 737 aircraft.

Boeing 737 MAX
One of the most important priorities for Boeing is to return the 737 MAX to service. Photo: Boeing

The FAA intends to use inexperienced pilots

Skift is reporting that some of the pilots the FAA will bring in will have little experience with the Boeing 737. Instead of testing the pilots on actual 737 MAX aircraft, the FAA will use flight simulators. The safety of the aircraft is still in question, so it makes sense for the FAA to use simulators for this test. In addition, using inexperienced pilots allows Boeing to test how newer 737 pilots will be able to respond to the issue. And, those unfamiliar with the aircraft could offer valuable insights that other pilots might overlook.

Boeing 737 MAX
Flight simulators will serve in lieu of testing on actual aircraft which remain grounded. Photo: Boeing

Simple Flying reached out to Boeing who did not have a comment or confirm the reports. The FAA also has not publicly confirmed these reports. It also is not clear where these pilots will be sourced from.

Boeing 737 MAX
Boeing’s software fix will be tested on 737 MAX simulators. Photo: Boeing

Why is this important?

Boeing and the FAA are under scrutiny after two entirely fatal 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. By covering all their bases, the FAA is looking to regain international recognition as an industry-leading regulatory agency. In fact, the FAA was the last major civil aviation regulatory agency in the world to ground the 737 MAX. China was the first.

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Air China 737 MAX
Chinese carriers were the first to receive orders to ground the 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

Airlines are also watching these developments closely. In the last few years, the 737 MAX grounding has received some of the most intense media sensation and public scrutiny. Another 737 MAX crash after recertification due to issues with the MCAS or autopilot would be a near deathblow for the FAA, Boeing, and airlines who fly the aircraft.

737 MAX
The Boeing 737 MAX has received some of the most intense media and public scrutiny out of any aircraft in recent years. Photo: Boeing

When will the aircraft fly again?

Boeing and airlines would love to see this aircraft recertified and in the air by the end of the year. In fact, this is still a possibility, depending on how FAA testing goes. However, as a precaution, many airlines have removed the 737 MAX from service until 2020. This does not necessarily indicate a lack of confidence in the aircraft. Instead, airlines can better prepare their operations in case the 737 MAX does not return to service until 2020.

Norwegian 737 MAX
Airlines, like Norwegian, would love to see the 737 MAX back in service sooner rather than later. Photo: Boeing

We will have to wait for word from the FAA before a more concrete timeline comes into place. And, after the FAA, other international regulatory agencies will have to lift the ban before the 737 MAX enters widespread international service.

Boeing 737 MAX
A global return to service would require many international agencies lifting their bans on the aircraft simultaneously. Photo: Boeing

Do you think the FAA is making the right decision by bringing in inexperienced 737 pilots? Will you fly on the 737 MAX once it is recertified? Let us know in the comments!

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Shapes

I wouldn’t step foot on a max and I’d be nervous to fly any boeing now.
The Max has a design flaw inherent from its 60 year old design, ie a low ground clearance stopping the fitting of newer engines in a safe position that wouldn’t cause dangerous flying characteristics.
MCAS was designed to hide the pitch up problem and keep the max certification and training low cost for airlines.
You don’t need to be an engineer or pilot to see the max flaws and how Boeing tried to hide them.

Vedant Ganesh

I gotta agree

Norman

I so agree

Hyas Skutum Tum Tum

After all the testing it will be the safest commercial bird in the sky… just too bad it took two fatal crashes to get there. Black mark on Boeing (and FAA) for sure, and I’m surprised the CEO is still in chair, but all the bluster about fatal design flaws and refusing to set foot in a re-certified max is just that… bluster.

CPA in NJ

How does simulator training support the FAA’s decision to unground the 737 max? Can’t the simulator be programmed to avert an MCAS disaster? vs. real-life the pilot would not be able to do so? If I’m programming the simulator, I would never allow an MCAS-related error to crash the plane. But in real life, two planes crashed on take-off due to MCAS. The newer, larger engine is clearly placed in an unsafe position. I really think the 737 Max is going to have to be put through unmanned flights – where the pilot is controlling the plane in a remote… Read more »

Never Fly 737 Max

MCAS is the smoking gun – what a great strategy on Boeing’s part to shift the focus onto the symptom not the cause! I’d love to see an article about the true inefficiencies of the 737 Max design. If the engine placement on the 737 Max is ideal for a new aircraft coming to market, then how about Boeing re-mount all engines on the 787 and 777x in a forward and above wing position? It’s interesting the 737 Max 10 has extending landing gear (yes another work-around) but it would have been better to do that with the whole Max… Read more »

Some Guy

Please don’t compare a 737 to a 787 or 777. That’s a sign of poor judgment and you know very well the wide bodies have high ground clearance compared to the smaller craft.

JackFlash

This thing has a fundamental design flaw. No matter what software tweaks they come up with.
A hack will always be just a hack. It would be really interesting to hear what Boeing engineers think privately. And there is an ongoing FBI investigation.
Boeing had gambled twice and caused unrepairable damage.

Frank

Everyone can relax, save for people in the US – whose FAA will re-certify the aircraft for delivery to American carriers. Geo-politics have taken over at this point in time and there is no way the aircraft gets put back into service around the world – China just slapped more tariffs on the states and Donnie is getting a chilly reception at the G7 meeting, wanting Russia back into make it the G8 (which is prolly what Vlad told him to do). Maybe Boris Johnson gets the UK to put it back into service, as well, but where are they… Read more »

Ron PIggott

When the next inevitable loss of hull occurs then what? The 737 Max hasn’t fundamentally changed during the grounding. If it took MCAS to be certified to begin with why isn’t the underlying issue really addressed? I’m really hoping that the international regulators are acting with integrity and in the interests of the flying public at this time,

Scientist Rocker

These comments are seriously uninformed. Read the engineering critique on the “seeking alpha” website. The plane is no worse than any other major commercial jet. Boeing however completely screwed up in their design of the MCAS system but that can be repaired. Somewhat late for the people who died on the jets. I hope Boeing gets a serious slap and I hope that the FAA is reshaped to actually do their job. Basically Boeing fired their grey haired engineers and replaced them with the young and clueless ones with little real experience. It takes more than math-software whizzes to build… Read more »

CPA in NJ

You’re correct. Boeing shareholders want approval. Seeking alpha is great site. But the posters are clearly biased who want the 737 Max ungrounded so boeing’s share price recovers.

John Smyth

737 may set precedent as the first to be ordered to re-certify as a “new” design which will be a bonus for BOEING as they can re-brand.

WIN for the public.

WIN for BOEING (long term).

Slammer

I like and agree with the quote ” NO I will not fly on the 737 Max for a minimum of 5 years of it being in successful service.” Boeing has been asleep at the wheel.

Gary

When the FAA certified the Boeing 737 Max.
It was certified for the MCAS at .6
Then Boeing decided it wasn’t enough and made it at 2.6 and never told the FAA about this.
If the 737 Max was bought back to the .6
Wander what it would be like then.

Shapes

It would stall, that’s why they covertly changed it.

Gary

Still means that the certification of the 737Max is illegal isn’t it.
If it was certified the MCAS at .6 not at 2.6
That means the that the certification is incorrect.

Shapes

Yes I agree

Old Fly Guy

The 737 Max appears to be a fundamentally flawed design that was rushed to market with a sloppy and ineffective software patch, with tragic results. It may never be possible to make this aircraft safe. Moreover, Boeing’s unseemly rush to have the aircraft recertified suggests that it is simply repeating the profit-driven, cost-cutting process that put this aircraft in service previously. What is needed instead is a searching, ground-up review and redesign of the aircraft, followed by a tough, skeptical de novo certification review by FAA personnel who were not involved in the original approval. Until that happens, I have… Read more »

Gary

Still means that the certification of the 737Max is illegal isn’t it.
If it was certified the MCAS at .6 not at 2.6
That means the that the certification is incorrect.

Shapes

Yes, It would certainly seem that the initial certification is invalid.

Shapes

At the moment boeing seems to have no aircraft for the future, it’s selling list is either old designs, limited market, or grounded designs. Only the 777x is new on the drawing board and this is for a small specific market and of course has no working engines yet.
I guess what I’m trying to say is their product list is fast becoming obsolete and I don’t see any replacements penned in to follow them.
In 5 or 10 years, Boeing will have a portfolio of aircraft that don’t fit the market.

Bill Konnolly

I think Dennis Liarburg is doing what a position as CEO has been made for, he’s lying 24/7. what else he should do, to tell the truth, no way, that would mean an end to Boeing. I’m asking myself, why no one has been fired at the top level of Boeing and also the FAA, Ali Bahrami for example he was at top level FAA and then lobbying for Boeing. The whole top level needs to be behind jail.

Michael Whiteman

They need scapegoats, in their particular cases it’s well deserved. Boeing is keeping them around until the problem is “fixed”.

Once the MAX is flying again, they we be all pushed aside and taking early retirement. Golden parachutes fully intact.

Then a new broom can come in and take charge.

Michael Wheeler

What about the views and opinions of the flight crews. I am sure that they will have something to say about who has to fly on this plane. I can’t imagine that they are /will be happy to be the guinea pigs and have to fly on it if it is put back into service. I would hope that the companies “flying” the 737 max will let any crew member opt out of having to be any where near this thing.

Nigel

I would not fly on this plane, this plane is from an engineering point of view flawed, on top of that they Boeing try an fix it with a system that most pilots knew nothing about.

And even then when they did try and sort the issue the MCAS system also failed them, over riding what they tried to do in order to save the plane.

My family will never go near the 737 Max.