FAA Chief Satisfied With 737 MAX But No Recertification Yet

FAA Chief Steve Dickson has indicated personal satisfaction with the changes on the 737 MAX but stresses that recertification is not occurring yet. The agency is still working with other regulators to get the MAX in the air.

Dickson in a MAX
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson flew a Boeing 737 MAX today. Photo: FAA via Twitter

The flight itself

Today’s test flight came after US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson spent a few days in Seattle doing some distance learning and pilot training. Boeing proposed and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) assessed and analyzed as part of its inquiry into the MAX.

After completing that, Administrator Dickson boarded a MAX and flew it for about two hours today. With the test flight completed, Administrator Dickson held a press conference on the MAX.

Below is some video the FAA released on the MAX flight from September 30th flown by Administrator Dickson:

FAA Administrator on the MAX

In a press conference after flying the 737 MAX, Administrator Dickson stated the following:

“Shortly after I took the helm at the FAA, I made a promise that I would fly the 737 MAX and that I wouldn’t sign off on its return until I was comfortable putting my family on it. I took the same training, beginning last weekend and into this week, that the JOEB looked at during its work at London-Gatwick Airport in recent days. This was followed by a session in the 737 simulator, during which I had the opportunity to experience a variety of problems that presented the relevant emergencies that might occur. Today I flew a similar flight profile in the aircraft itself.”

Dickson FAA
Steve Dickson conducting a preflight visual inspection on the MAX he would pilot. Photo: FAA via Twitter

Later in the press conference, Administrator Dickson stated the following:

“I like what I saw. It has been a constructive week. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have some debrief items for the Boeing team and the FAA team. I have some observations I am going to share with them, and that will be incorporated into the process going forward.”

Administrator Dickson did side-step a question about whether or not he would put his family on the MAX, stating instead he was using his background as a pilot to continue the dialogue to continue to improve the MAX, understand the MAX, and recertify the aircraft.

Dickson FAA
Administrator Dickson made the promise to fly the MAX early on in his tenure at the FAA. Photo: FAA via Twitter

What does this mean for the 737 MAX?

Administrator Dickson’s flight has been hotly awaited since he announced he would fly the MAX before recertification. While he is not the end-all, be-all on the MAX, his flight today certainly will influence the recertification timeline.

Administrator Dickson did echo the sentiments of his European counterparts today, stating that the MAX was in the “home stretch,” although he declined to put a specific date on it. He did, however, say that he anticipates the FAA will be aligned with other global regulators, including the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which stated it was hoping to get the MAX in the air by November.

MAX flight
The MAX still has a ways to go before being recertified, though it should happen soon. Photo: FAA via Twitter

The FAA still outlined the following tasks that must be completed before the MAX is flying commercial passengers again in the United States:

  • Flight Standardization Board (FSB) Report: This report will compile the results of the JOEB evaluation into the draft FAA FSB report, which will be posted for public comment “in the near future.”
  • Final Design Documentation and Technical Advisory Board (TAB) Report: The FAA will review the final design documentation from Boeing on the MAX to ensure compliance with all FAA regulations. The TAB report is compiled from the multi-agency board, which will issue a final determination of compliance by the FAA.
  • Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) and Airworthiness Directive (AD): The FAA will issue a CANIC detailing pending safety actions and publish a final AD that will cover the required corrective actions before a MAX can reenter commercial service
  • Rescinding of the grounding order: This will be the official ungrounding of the aircraft. However, aircraft cannot return to service until operators complete the work specified in the AD, and pilots complete any required training.
  • Certificates of Airworthiness: The FAA will retain its authority and issue airworthiness certificates, and export certificates for all new 737 MAX airplanes manufactured since the MAX was grounded. This will entail FAA inspectors performing in-person, individual reviews of each aircraft before they are delivered.
  • Operator Training Programs: The FAA will review and approve training programs for all Part 121 (regularly scheduled air carrier) operations

Ultimately, there is still at least a month or two of work left to do, which means that the MAX could be back in commercial service by the end of 2020, though, ultimately, the FAA and regulators will make that decision.

What do you make of this latest MAX milestone? Let us know in the comments!