Steve Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, is test flying the Boeing 737 MAX today. The two-hour flight comes as a crucial step in the 737 MAX recertification pathway as Boeing and regulators look to return the aircraft to the sky, but with safety as the top priority.
A year and a half after the 737 MAX was grounded, work is ongoing to recertify the aircraft. The type was initially grounded following two fatal accidents caused by the aircraft’s MCAS system. While the return to service date has been pushed back many times, like Berlin Airport, it seems as though we’re on the finishing stretch.
Two-hour test flight
FAA administrator Steve Dickson is currently test flying N7201S, Boeing’s 737 MAX that has been used for all test flights. The 737 MAX departed from Boeing Field at 08:51 this morning. The aircraft flew west before completing a figure of eight and flying down to Moses Lake. At the time of writing, the aircraft was returning to Boeing field. The test flight is expected to last around two hours.
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Steve Dickson is no stranger to the Boeing 737 family. Following a career as an F-15 fighter pilot for the US Air Force, Dickson became a commercial pilot. According to the FAA pilot database, Dickson holds type ratings on the A320 as well as the Boeing 737, 757, and 767. A year ago Dickson said that he wouldn’t recertify the Boeing 737 MAX until he had flown it himself with the new software, hence today’s flight.
Progress being made
All in all, progress is finally being made to return the Boeing 737 MAX to service. Three major aviation authorities, the FAA, Transport Canada, and EASA, have now completed test flights of the type. Following this, they met to discuss their findings at London’s Gatwick Airport earlier in the month.
EASA was the last of the three to test fly the aircraft, clocking 9.5 hours of flight time on the model. As such, EASA is currently estimating that it will recertify the aircraft in November with the organization’s executive director saying,
“For the first time in a year and a half I can say there’s an end in sight to work on the MAX”
It is almost certain that the FAA will be the first to recertify the aircraft. This will allow major US customers such as Southwest Airlines and American Airlines to begin pilot training, and gradually reintroduce the aircraft to schedules. However, with each country able to make its own decision on recertifying the aircraft, it could be some time until the ban is lifted worldwide.
Speaking to Simple Flying recently, Peter Foster, CEO of Air Astana commented,
“It’s possible that the aircraft may be recertified by the US, and Europe, you know, in a relatively short timeframe, but then of course everybody else has got to follow, including our own regulator. And that process may be very long. I mean, I guess regulators will be nervous.”
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