Light at end of tunnel for 737 MAX – may take to the skies again in November

There is optimism at Boeing that its beleaguered 737 MAX may obtain its certification of airworthiness by November and enter back into service by the end of the year. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is due to conduct an evaluation flight this week, with Chief Steve Dickson at the controls. Previously a commercial pilot, Dickson will undergo simulator training prior to the flight and will then report his findings to the FAA. Some time ago Dickson stated that he would personally fly the plane as part of the approval process and if satisfied “that I would put my own family on it without a second thought.”

Currently the FAA, plus regulators from the European Union, Canada and Brazil, have combined to form the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) and will evaluate the necessary training for pilots to familiarize themselves with the changes made to the 737 MAX, in particular the MCAS system, which was identified as being a critical component of the fatal Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes in October 2018 and March 2019, respectively.

Thereafter, the JOEB findings will be released for public comment, while a directive outlining software upgrades and additional changes still has to be finalized before flights can be resumed. With the 737 MAX now scheduled to resume flying in November, there is every possibility it will be able to re-enter into service by the year’s end.

“For the first time in a year and a half, I can say there’s an end in sight to work on the MAX,” commented Patrick Ky, Executive Director, European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The next version of the 737 will also have a third sensor system fitted, which will be retrofitted to exiting models at a later date.

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