The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has outlined the remaining steps before the agency recertifies the Boeing 737 MAX. The agency is also planning to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for an Airworthiness Directive (AD) in the near future.
What steps are left?
The FAA released an update to the Boeing 737 MAX recertification process. The agency is working toward issuing an NPRM, which is a step forward. But, many steps still remain. In the release, the FAA stated the following:
“The agency continues to follow a robust certification process. In addition to the standard FAA certification team, the 737 MAX Technical Advisory Board (TAB) continues to provide valuable review and consultation.”
The NPRM is a public notice when a US government agency wishes to alter regulations. Once it is issued, the FAA will take public comment on it for a period of 45 days. At the conclusion of that process, the FAA will review all public comments, make any necessary changes, and then publish the AD relating to the 737 MAX.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
JOEB Validation & FSB Review
The Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) and Flight Standardization Board (FSB) are core parts of the agency’s review process. Final planning is underway for those boards to review the proposed training for flight crews, based on design changes and crew procedures.
The JOEB is a group of professionals, including regulators from Canada, Europe, and Brazil. The goal of this board is to evaluate minimum pilot training requirements. Once this is completed, the FSB will issue a draft report open to comments from the public that addresses the JOEB’s findings.
After the FSB has reviewed and addressed the public comments, the FAA will publish a final FSB report.
Final design documentation and TAB report
Boeing is working on its final design documentation for the 737 MAX. The FAA will review that design documentation to ensure it is compliant with all FAA regulations.
In addition, the Technical Advisory Board, comprised of professionals from multiple agencies, also reviews Boeing’s submissions and issues a final report before the FAA determines whether or not the design documentation is compliant.
CANIC & AD
CANIC stands for the Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community. This document will notify international regulatory agencies and interested parties about pending actions related to the safety of the aircraft.
After that, the FAA will release a final Airworthiness Directive (AD), which will be about known issues in the aircraft leading to the grounding. Any corrective actions that have to be taken before the type can reenter commercial service will be included in the AD.
The FAA must rescind the grounding order
The official ungrounding of the aircraft will happen when the FAA rescinds the order. Airline operators will need to ensure that work specified in the AD is carried out (as are any trainings for crew) before the aircraft reenters commercial service.
The FAA is going to issue airworthiness and export certificates for all new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the grounding began. As part of this, the FAA will be conducting in-person, individual reviews of these aircraft.
How much time is left?
The upcoming NPRM is a step forward for the 737 MAX. There is likely still a few months left in the certification process– barring any major changes. This could see the aircraft back in the air by the end of the year– once the time necessary to make changes to the plane is accounted for. One step that the FAA did not explicitly state is that the FAA chief plans on piloting the MAX himself before recertification– that is still left to be done.
However, that is no guarantee. The FAA has remained steadfast in issuing no official timeline for the completion of the review. One of the issues an Inspector General report found was that the FAA was left uninformed of fundamental MCAS changes that were a critical part of both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines investigation. The goal now is to ensure to the world that the FAA has thoroughly reviewed the aircraft and worked to reinstate its position as a leading aviation regulatory agency.
Are you excited to see the 737 MAX move closer to recertification? Do you think the MAX will be in the air by the end of the year? Let us know in the comments!