Boeing Swa737 Max 1540

FAA Sees 737 MAX Progress Soon

Feb. 7, 2020
Agency head Dickson would not set a date, but predicted a schedule would be clearer after the upcoming certification flight.

The head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration avoided stating a date for approving the design changes that would allow Boeing Co.'s 737 MAX aircraft to return to commercial service, but predicted that schedule would be clearer after the updated jet completes its recertification flight, as expected in the coming weeks. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson also predicted that different air safety agencies may set their own schedules for allowing airlines to resume 737 MAX service.

“On the design approval, from everything that I have seen I think we’ll have very solid alignment,” Dickson said, speaking to the U.K. Aviation Club in London.

More than 380 of the best-selling twin-engine jet have been grounded worldwide since March 2019, following two fatal crashes, in October 2018 and March 2019. Boeing suspended deliveries of 737 MAX jets (it has logged orders for more than 4,900 of the narrow-body aircraft since 2011), and last month it stopped production of new 737 MAXs, in view of its backlog of undelivered jets.

The crashes have been attributed to a malfunction in the aircraft's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — an "anti-stall" software meant to counter aerodynamic effects of the larger engines installed in the 737 as part of its redesign.

A revised MCAS program is the basis for testing that Boeing is conducting now, in expectation of FAA's and other agencies' clearance to proceed with updating the jets' flight-control programming. Other issues have emerged during the testing, including a different software malfunction reported last month, introducing new concerns about the scope of recertification and testing of the aircraft's airworthiness.

According to recent statements from Boeing, the 737 MAX will not return to commercial service until summer. Major operators of the aircraft — including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines — have removed 737 MAX flights from their schedules through June 2020.

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