The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finished Boeing 737 MAX certification flights on July 1, 2020. While the authority states there is still a long way to go until the aircraft is allowed to carry passengers again, it shared a short video reminding of how that would look like.
The certification flights began on June 29, 2020, 14 months following the world-wide grounding of the aircraft in March 2019. During three days, FAA pilots and engineers evaluated the changes of the automated flight control system. The system, known as MCAS, was pinned as the main cause of both Lion Air flight JT610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashes, that together killed 346 people.
Despite the ending of certification flights, a number of key tasks remain before the 737 MAX can return to service, FAA warned. For instance, the authority is yet to evaluate the data gathered during these flights. The aircraft will be officially ungrounded once the FAA rescinds the grounding order, issued in March 2019. Even then, though, operators will likely need to complete the work outlined in the AD and train their pilots before re-introducing the airliner to scheduled passenger service.
“The agency is following a deliberate process and will take the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing’s work,” FAA’s statement read. “We will lift the grounding order only after FAA safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards.
The FAA informed the Congress on June 28, 2020, that it finished reviewing new safety processes put in place by Boeing. Certification flights began on June 29. The first 737 MAX 7 took off from Seattle Boeing Field (BFI) and landed at Moses Lake International Airport (MWH) after a two-hour flight. Shortly after, the aircraft operated a return flight from MWH back to BFI.
In the aftermath of the crashes, the investigation led by aviation regulators from around the world revealed other design flaws in addition to the MCAS malfunction. The manufacturer was allowed to fix some of them after the aircraft returned to service. In the meantime, Boeing will update the pilot training and manuals to warn of those safety lapses.
Boeing resumed the production of the narrow-body on May 27, after halting the assembly in January 2020. Several customers of the aircraft have either deferred or canceled their orders, including Norwegian Air Shuttle, which cut its remaining orders for 92 MAX planes.
The return to service could take place around September 2020.