The 737 MAX is a twin-engine, narrow-body jet and the latest iteration of Boeing’s best-selling aircraft. It debuted for commercial service in 2017.

FAA Sets Schedule for 737 MAX Return

July 23, 2020
The agency has committed to issuing a public notice of its proposed design, training, and procedural changes for the grounded aircraft, to be followed by a 45-day comment period.

The Federal Aviation Administration updated its outlook for approving the Boeing 737 MAX to return to commercial service, saying it will issue a proposed "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for an Airworthiness Directive (AD)" in the "near future". That will include a summary of corrective actions required of operators before the jets may re-enter commercial service, as well as a 45-days public-comment period for assessing the design and procedure changes developed to address the earlier design flaws.

The latter detail is expected to push any potential resumption of service into Q4 2020, and possibly into 2021. Boeing has said it expects the regulatory approval in time to resume deliveries by September 30.

The twin-engine, narrow-body aircraft that Boeing introduced in 2017 has been idle since March 2019, following the second fatal crash over a six-month period. The crashes killed 346 passengers and crew members, after which it was concluded that the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS, a flight-control software) prevented pilots from overriding a movement that accelerated the jets toward the ground — in an effort to prevent engine stalling on takeoff.

Boeing has revised the MCAS and made some other wiring changes, which were reviewed in test flights in late June, conducted by pilots selected by FAA and Boeing.

However, FAA cautioned that the NPRM is just one step in a sequence to be completed before it issues a new Airworthiness Directive for the 737 MAX. Other steps include:

JOEB Validation & FSB Review. The FAA’s Flight Standardization Board (FSB) and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB), including safety-regulation agents from Canada, Europe, and Brazil, will evaluate minimum pilot training requirements, and issue a draft report of the consolidated findings for public comment.

Final FSB Report. FAA will publish a final FSB report after reviewing and addressing public comments.

Final Design Documentation and TAB Report. FAA will review Boeing’s final design documentation in order to evaluate compliance with all FAA regulations. The multi-agency Technical Advisory Board (TAB) also will review the final Boeing submission and issue a final report prior to a final determination of compliance by the FAA.

CANIC & AD. FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) providing notice of pending significant safety actions and will publish an Airworthiness Directive (AD) that addresses the known issues for grounding.

According to a Boeing spokesman, the manufacturer is “is working closely with the FAA and other international regulators to meet their expectations as we work to safely return the 737 MAX to service.”

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