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FAA Grants Certification for a New 737 MAX

Dec. 1, 2020
The Federal Aviation Administration issued an airworthiness certificate for one of the twin-engine jets completed by Boeing during the 20-month grounding period, clearing it for delivery.

The Federal Aviation Administration certified the first airworthiness certificate for a Boeing 737 MAX built since March 2019, according to an agency announcement. The long-idled narrow-body aircraft program had its grounding order rescinded by FAA on November 18, meaning Boeing soon may resume deliveries of previously ordered aircraft and airlines may begin to prepare to resume commercial service with their 737 MAX jets.

Also last month FAA cleared American Airlines to begin training its pilots to operate the revised 737 MAX jets, and the carrier has indicated it intends to resume 737 MAX service on December 29 with a scheduled flight from Miami to New York.

Following the FAA’s “ungrounding” order, the Brazilian safety regulator ANAC rescinded its own order that halted 737 operations in Brazil. EASA, the EU safety regulator, is expected to rescind its order in January.

After two fatal crashes, FAA and aviation safety regulators in other countries barred 737 MAX jets from operating, though Boeing continued to build aircraft to fill orders. Reportedly, Boeing has about 450 of the jets completed but undelivered. An FAA clearance is needed for those deliveries to begin, which is the bases of the agency’s announcement.

“We expect to have sufficient number of inspectors on hand to meet Boeing’s planned delivery schedule for the foreseeable future. We’ll defer to Boeing to discuss the company’s manufacturing and delivery plans,” according to FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

Beginning in April 2019, Boeing began investigating the cause of the two crashes, which killed a total of 346 passengers and crew members. In coordination with the FAA, the investigations resulted Boeing redeveloping the 737 MAX Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the flight control software. Reportedly, the previous flight-control software misidentified the jets' "angle of attack" (AOA), and prevented the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines pilots from overriding an automated descent that resulted in the two incidents.

The new MCAS draws more data from multiple sensors, and it has been extensively tested by FAA and other safety agencies during the recent months. New-delivery jets as well as those 737 MAX jets still grounded by  individual airlines must be updated to incorporate the new MCAS. In addition, Boeing and FAA have agreed on a more extensive, simulator-based training program for 737 MAX crews. and flight crews

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