FAA Takes Big Step Towards 737 MAX Recertification

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made a huge first step towards recertifying the 737 MAX. While the aircraft is still facing a worldwide grounding, this is welcome news as American carriers operate and have on order a significant number of 737 MAX aircraft.

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Boeing’s beleaguered 737 MAX is moving closer towards recertification. Photo: Boeing

The FAA updates the 737 MAX MMEL

On December 6th, the FAA announced on Twitter that they had revised the Boeing 737 MAX Master Minimum Equipment List on December 6th.

The FAA is alone so far in making any such announcements. No other major international civil aviation regulatory agencies have released information in regards to updated operating procedures for the 737 MAX alongside the FAA’s announcement.

737 MAX
Other regulatory agencies are also reviewing the 737 MAX for recertification. Photo: Boeing

What is the Master Minimum Equipment List?

The Master Minimum Equipment List, or MMEL, offers pilots, instructors, technicians, and anyone else who interacts with the aircraft a set of tables, lists, and requirements and procedures regarding the 737 MAX. More importantly, the list outlines what must be functional and when for the aircraft to fly safely.

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The FAA has updated the MMEL for the 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

The list has been posted for public comment. This allows for people to review what the FAA believes are important changes to the document prior to recertification of the type. Due to commonality with the 737 Next Generation (NG), of which some are currently dealing with pickle fork cracks, the FAA has made some adjustments to the 737 NG’s MMEL as well. However, 737 NGs are still allowed to fly. 

The 737 MAX is not yet ready for recertification

While this move indicates that the FAA has looked at various features and equipment on the 737 MAX in-depth, this announcement made it clear that there is no set timeline for recertification. The agency is still conducting a review of the 737 MAX design and pilot changes.

737 MAX MMEL
The FAA has not laid out a clear return to service date for the 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

When will the 737 MAX return to service?

The grounding of the 737 MAX has been extended by several carriers to close to one year since the type faced worldwide grounding. Mostly, this is due to uncertainty surrounding the review and recertification of the type from regulatory agencies.

737 MAX
Airlines have grounded the 737 MAX for close to one year. Photo: Boeing

While airlines would love to see the 737 MAX back in the skies soon, regulatory agencies are warier. Another entirely fatal crash would absolutely cripple Boeing, airlines, and worldwide regulatory agencies. So, it is up to the agencies to ensure the aircraft’s airworthiness. And, for that, it appears that no one is leaving any stone unturned.

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Airlines like United would love to see the 737 MAX back in the skies soon. Photo: Boeing

Overall

This is certainly movement towards a return to service of the 737 MAX. After a while, this is some good news for Boeing’s beleaguered narrowbody. However, it is unclear exactly how long it will take the regulator to return the aircraft to service and issue every Boeing 737 MAX an airworthiness certificate.

What do you make of this new development? Let us know in the comments!

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Bryce

Well, the good news is that this posting by the FAA is open to public comment; it would be in the interest of safety if this facility is now used by pilots and airline technical staff to bombard the FAA with comments/questions. Hopefully all such queries — and the replies from the FAA — will be made public.

DAVID M WILLIAMS

MCAS really dumb……just turn off the system……..let the pilots fly the airplane………I hope that’s what they are trained to do…….too much automation……pilots now just watch…….seems simple…..pull back-go up…push down- go down

Gerry S

Not everyone is as good a pilot as you obviously are.

Frank

Hey Gerry – don’t knock Microsoft Flight Simulator! The nerve…

sarcasm_font

Vanessa

Seems like a simple solution, but wasn’t the only issue in why the Lion Air Crashed based on the report published by the Indonesian investigation. I recommend reading the document it was really enlightening especially when you factor in a lot of Lion Air Maintenance/Log issues/training issues. By no means is MCAS perfect but it seems that Boeing pocket appear the deepest among those involved. I mean installing a AOA sensor that was for the wrong side of the plane seems (it has a stop point they are not a full 360° swivel, therefore giving it a 21° bias )… Read more »

London

Agree but not only Lion Air (737 Max) who crashed and killed 280 passengers (in the same year)

Gerald Holley

Didntbthey install this as a way of dealing with the design flaw

John

The issue was solvable and did occur in North America. The pilots were able to work it out. However some Forgein airlines rely on the automation so much they couldn’t get out of the problem. This made the crashes so much more tragic. It is a simple fix …however as the article states they are super paranoid about it as another crash would be devestating.

Bryce

The Titanic was also a “simple fix”:
– Don’t design “watertight” compartments to be inter-communicating along their topsides;
– Don’t use sub-standard rivets, with excessive slag content;
– Ensure there are sufficient lifeboats onboard;
– Heed the ice warnings, and reduce speed;
– Ram icebergs head-on rather than scraping them broadside.
All the fault of “foreigners” (Brits), of course.
And all “solvable”, because other ships didn’t sink on the same night as the Titanic.

It’s interesting comparing the MAX to the Titanic, isn’t it? 😉

Nigel

I wonder how many times they have managed to create a real life replica scenario of what happened in both cases of the 2 plane crashes whilst in the simulators that pilots was trained on how to overcome the issues. In my view the plane still has a fundamental engineering design flaw that is to be overcome by a software fix, which proved to be with huge consequences when the software hard failed then the software tried to take over. I would be interested in knowing exactly what they have done in order to rectify the issue, obviously it must… Read more »

K.P.

They have made it where it takes both input devices into both computers to kick off MCAS and either pilot can override it with a simple pulling back the stick.

Frank

Nigel – there was an interesting article on Aviation Week, about just that thing. This was when Boeing was putting out their PR offensive that it was the fault of the ‘foreign pilots’. They used experienced US pilots, put them in the sim, told them what was coming. No pressure of dying, no pressure of 300+ lives in their hands – forewarned knowledge. The US pilots couldn’t save the plane.

Ethiopian MAX Crash Simulator Scenario Stuns Pilots

https://aviationweek.com/commercial-aviation/ethiopian-max-crash-simulator-scenario-stuns-pilots?utm_rid=CPEN1000012271738&utm_campaign=19658&utm_medium=email&elq2=92ba319ff98b405da93ac0d3a4a5020b

Armand2REP

Pilots must be given an emergency overide button to turn off MCAS. It should be big and red.

Gerry S

Then Staples will sue. (lol)

Frank

Boeing could always license it from Staples…

Gerry S

True

UncleHummus$

nd if they don’t Target will (and several other Red&White corporations)

Rick

Pilots can switch h off the power but the force required to trim the aircraft manually is too great for the pilots.

Gerry S

Should have joined the rest of the world in fly-by-wire.

Sean R

They had one before. It was, or is, the electric trim switches on either pilots control column (yoke). Pilots use it regularly, and it stops the automatic MCAS activation, and can be used to retrim the airplane. Once trimed, stab trim cutout. The Lion Air Captain was effective at this, with the exception of the stab trim cutout part.

UncleHummus$

and VERY EASY to access

Dennis

So in other words, the FAA has deposited the first installment of cash from Boeing. Still a few to go it seems.

K.P.

Maybe we should have the government run Boeing, then they can tell the FAA whatever they want them to say and save the cash like Airbus does the EASA!

Eamon

The US government already does run Boeing…in the form of those big, fat tax breaks 😉

Frank

Don’t forget the juicy defense contracts and the overbilling.

Gerry S

HEAR, HEAR!

Niklas Andersson

absolut true Eamon

Bob Gray

As a retired military and airline pilot, I don’t think any commercial aircraft that has a design aerodynamic instability flaw should be certified much less have a electronic bandaid there to fix the problem. As we know, electronics never fail. The military has unstable fighters that need electronics to fly but they have EJECTION SEATS.

Bryce

They got away with it in the case of the flutter correction software on the 747-8 (which performs continuous aileron adjustment). That probably emboldened them to try MCAS in the 737.

Mike Heath

Bob Grey, well said. Having worked in the development of the A220 and in aerospace engineering for a lifetime I concurr. A civil airliner cannot be fundemetally unstable. BOMBARDIER almost bankrupted the company developing a fuel efficient aircraft from scratch. Boeing tried to do it in the cheap, moving the engines forward and up, making a previously stable aircraft unstable. The MAX should never fly again. I certainly will never board one.

Niklas Andersson

Mike, I agree… The Max shouldn’t fly anymore…. what IF… within 3 month of the certification… we have a new disaster… Who will be blamed or be charged ?

Phil

And fighter planes are flown by young men willing to die for their country. That is not foremost in my mind when I board a commercial airline

Kumar Balasingam

Totally agree . What Boeing are trying to do is to fix a design that cannot take the new engines that they must use in their fight with the A320 family. They should spend money to redesign the 737 which is already a very old and dated design or they could go bankrupt trying all the software fixes for a hard ware problem

Frank

My very thoughts indeed.
Also putting out some fancy thoughts: Consider redesigning a longer (of about 6 inches) main landing gear (and correspondingly nose gear) to retract inboard as usual but slightly forward at an angle to the line joining the main pivots on the spars, to accommodate the longer oleos in the “keyhole recesses” in the underbelly of the fuselage. If a rotating pivot could be designed, strong & secure enough.

Frank Elias

And move the LEAP engines back to their normal underwing positions.

David Martin

Agree, what would worry me is why the plane needs mcas, and if it is disabled how stable is the plane to fly?
One suspect that without this aid the plane is difficult to fly. I will give it a miss for a few years.

Melinda

Money is the Most Valuable thing in the US.
Human Life and Human Health come behind the money in the US.
737 MAX scandal is not only sinister behavior of the Boeing.
We saw another scandal. “Boeing Faces Fine From FAA After Installing Faulty 737 Parts”
https://simpleflying.com/faa-boeing-737-fine/
After that I have NO TRUST to Boeing.
And all we will see that “American Officials will approve recertification of the 737 MAX series and we will see another crashes”!
Money and corporate profits are more valuable & superior than human life in US!

Bryce

It will be very interesting to see what happens with regulators outside the US; more particularly if they will insist on changes other than those with which the FAA is comfortable.

rick

FAA is to mandate the fitting of bubblewrap to the underside of the plane, and all future passengers must also be individually wrapped and stowed securely in a body bag to make identification easier

rick

737

MARK WILLIAMS

The reality is that neither pilots nor public would trust 737 Max, nor indeed Boeing. As a UK expression goes, you can’t polish a turd

Edhi Yusuf

Let shows FAA right over Boeing to turn back safety as top priority above money & technology race, people became smart from B737-Max case, don’t do a fool step

Dan

From a pilot’s view:….The 737MAX is the perfect example of an outdated design criteria that has been pushed too far in development in order to compete with more modern examples that fit the customer/airline requirements in the 21st century. No number of additional software fixes/patches/modifications will keep this model flying. It was designed in the 1950s and reached the end of the road with the previous update – and that was stretching it. Customer and user confidence is low. Boeing will get it recertified, shift the backlog with low prices per unit and then wash their hands of the whole… Read more »

Richard Cotton

I for one will never fly in a 737 MAX. The way in which Boeing have acted and the way the FAA seem to have behaved makes me think that profit and a desire for production has taken priority over safety

Jorge

I wouldn’t fly in them until they are one year accident free.

Rob

The 737 Max has a fundamental design flaw resulting from attempting to larger engines further forward on an old airframe. This caused unacceptable flying characteristics which Boeing tried to fix by giving assistance to the crew through flight computers. This didn't work so what really should Hakeem is that the basic design of the aircraft should change. But this would require a complete new certification costing millions of $ so why not try to re-certify an old design? This failed and many lives were lost.

Bill Portland

If it’s a Boeing, I ain’t going!

Michael

I can’t believe they are still trying to solve a mechanical design problem with a software fix?

Oceans Forever

You would have to be out of your mind to fly on one of those planes. Any idiot that programs a computer to read one sensor with a malfunction causing a catastrophe is just that ….an Idiot. I wonder what else they missed. I wouldn’t put my life on the line to save Boeing from bankruptcy.
Those planes should never fly again. Remember the Pinto …I do. Money above safety and the FAA needs to shut the Max down Forever. I’m glad I’m Canadian I doubt they will fly in our country ever again.

Niklas Andersson

The Max shouldn’t fly anymore…. what IF… within 3 month of the certification… we have a new disaster… Who will be blamed or be charged ?

Ken Sack

FAA is open to public comment? Err, since I don’t have a degree in plane engineering or software programming, what can I or any ordinary person. do. I hope Boeing isn’t trying to spread the responsibility of this fixing this mess to the public.

Gerald Holley

How the hell can a discredited, corrupt organisation complicit with Boeing in kiling 346 innocent souls, be allowed to recertify this flawed killer aircraft. The FAA are the last body I’d want to assure me it’s safe to fly this russian roulette airplane.

Len Kravontka

I wonder if the FAA would be as willing to sign off on an aircraft produced by a non American corporation!

Boeing has already showed a motivation for profit over safety. Bonus’s over safety. Shareholder gains over safety. Boeing is not to be trusted.

Gordon

There is no way I would ever fly in a 737 Max. Airlines who have already bought them are going to struggle to fill them with passengers once they are recertified.

London

The FAA and Boeing are calculating the lost since 737 Max grounded from the skies. Meanwhile, the passenger safety are the most important since they are the customer and customer has the right to choose their airlines.

Dwayne

This plane should never be allowed to fly, again. The fact they took a stable design and then shifted the engines and made it unstable, “fixing” the issue with an electronic bandaid, no thanks. I am aware of other planes doing similar corrections to keep the plane flying because of its instability but this is MCAS, a significant step up on control of the plane. Stupidly relying on a single sensor, and undocumented features, this plane should never have been allowed to leave the factory. The very fact that has been a year, goes to show this is not just… Read more »

M S NARAYANAN

Let FAA not pass the bug to public. Let FAA not certify it alone. If Boeing wants to sell the airplane to any particular region of the world, that region’s civil aviation authority plus particular countries authority should take part in certifying process. We can’t believe BOEING AND FAA FOR SURE. NO ONE HENCEFORTH WILL PLEDGE THEIR LIVES FLYING SUCH ILL DESIGNED AIRCRAFT . A WORLD BODY OF CERTIFICATORS IS REQUIRED. We are not bothered about Boeing s future or revival. NOTHING IN FAVOUR OF AMERICAS

Prof John Arnold

I find it so strange the public is so up in arms about Boeing and the mcas deceptions, which has always been the Norm in the corporate universe, when you have such power over government. Nothing will change untill individuals are charged for ineptness in design. Ethical standards are no longer.
The US continues to tolerate mass shootings, ingnores the povity and state of its people.

John

And yet millions try to move there constantly….guess it can’t be much better anywhere else….

W can Dungen

Never fly with Max 737, BOEIING is corrupt

Ian Hazeldine

There hould be no compromise on safety. I certainly will not fly in this heap of junk. I prefer a russian plane

C Brown

Require Boeing execs to fly separate flights on these planes prior to subjecting the flying public to uncertainty about its safety.