The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ungrounded the Boeing 737 MAX, allowing it to enter commercial service again.
The 737 MAX will be able to rejoin airline fleets as soon as all the tasks in the Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM) regarding returning the aircraft from storage is completed. In addition, the newly-developed software to change the architecture of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) has to be installed as well. So far, Boeing has delivered 387 of the now un-grounded jets to customers across the globe. In addition, 395 built units have waited for the all-clear to be delivered to their final customers. However, some have become “white-tails” – aircraft without an airline’s logo painted on the tailfin, as some customers canceled their orders over the debacle.
The jet will return to service for the first time since March 2019, when a second fatal crash in Ethiopia of the Boeing 737 MAX prompted aviation authorities to withdraw the MAX from service due to then-alleged similarities between Lion Air flight JT610, the first fatal accident with the type. The crash in Indonesia occurred in October 2018. In total, the two crashes claimed the lives of 346 people, including crew and passengers.
However, before it can return, the aircraft must go through a seven-step pre-Operational Readiness Flight (ORF) audit, which includes tasks from the AMM, installation of the newest software, Angle of Attack (AoA) system test, in addition to other items on the audit.
Following the domino effect grounding, the saga included such events as Boeing’s own chief executive being ousted from the company in late-December 2019, the company suspending production of the 737 MAX, or the fact that authorities like the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have swayed from their bilateral agreement with the US over certification delegation. Pilot training, which previously consisted of a theoretical lecture will now include ground and flight training in a full flight simulator (FFS) before pilots can fly the aircraft. The changes were made following the recommendations by Boeing and the Flight Standardization Board (FSB) and Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB).
Deeper investigations, including by US-based politicians, could also shift the way the FAA certifies aircraft. The United States House of Representatives voted to introduce changes in the way the governmental agency certifies commercial planes. Before the proposed bill comes into effect, it will have to pass the US Senate and be signed by the President.