The FAA has revealed that the Boeing 737 MAX is almost ready for its first test flights. Speaking at the Singapore Airshow, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said that his agency is ‘narrowing the issues’ around the beleaguered aircraft, and that a test flight is the next major milestone to cross. Despite his positive outlook, Dickson shied away from committing to any sort of timetable for the lifting of the ban.
Narrowing the issues
This week’s Singapore Airshow has ended up being something of a scaled-back affair, as exhibitors and visitors alike pulled out in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, the show has gone on, and many big names have been spotted in attendance.
The FAA Administrator Steve Dickson swept his coronavirus worries aside and showed some support for the show with a visit today. It was during this visit that Dickson spoke to reporters about the 737 MAX. Although he acknowledged there’s still a long way to go, his overall message was a positive one. As reported by Reuters, Dickson said,
“We are following a very diligent process and it is important that we stay focused on the process and not on the timeline. Having said that we are approaching a milestone: the certification flight is the next major milestone and once that is completed I think we will have a good bit more clarity on where the process goes forward from there.”
He went on to explain that the certification flight of the Boeing 737 MAX, which will be undertaken by the FAA’s own pilots, has not been scheduled yet. Dickson said that the reason for this is,
“Because we still have a few issues to resolve, but we continue to narrow the issues. We are waiting for proposals from Boeing on a few items.”
The FAA boss did note that all regulators are very closely aligned at a technical level, and that he fully expects the approval for the MAX to occur very close together in time. However, he did admit that there may be some different approaches in regard to exactly how the ban is lifted around the world.
Boeing pegs a mid-year return
While the FAA boss is somewhat shy of putting a timeframe on the 737 MAX return to service, Boeing’s senior executives were not so cautious. Speaking to Bloomberg reporters at the Singapore Airshow yesterday, Boeing’s commercial marketing vice president Randy Tinseth commented,
“We believe the airplane will return to service mid-year … We’re working with regulators around the world and have a little cushion in that, but that’s our schedule.”
Discussing the pilot training requirements for the MAX, Tinseth confirmed that Boeing plans to recommend that all pilots of the 737 MAX go through full simulator training as part of the process. When questioned about who would pay for this training, he noted that, in many cases, this additional training would be wrapped into the compensation packages that are being worked out with Boeing customers.
Tinseth also felt it would not be an issue to get the flying public back onto the aircraft. In the interview, he described Boeing’s strategy for this, saying,
“Win the hearts and minds of the pilots first, win the hearts and minds of the flight attendants and airlines, and then work very closely with your customers to bring the flying public back.”
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