The FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) Administrator, Steve Dickson, has test flown the Boeing 737 MAX as the aircraft goes through its recertification process. In a move that some have called merely a publicity stunt, the head of the US aviation regulatory body was at the controls of N7201S – Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 test airframe, which is being used to certify the modifications made to the aircraft type, which was grounded globally in March 2019 after two fatal crashes.
In a post-flight statement, Dickson said that his flying of the aircraft “…was separate from the official certification process that’s still underway by the FAA.” He went on to say that as such “…the FAA continues to take a thorough and deliberate approach in our review of Boeing’s proposed changes to the 737 MAX. We are in the home stretch, but that doesn’t mean we are going to take shortcuts to get it done by a certain date.“.
Both Boeing and the FAA have come under intense criticism since the MAX debacle began, highlighting issues deep within Boeing’s management, indicating that issues with the MCAS system were known about before the aircraft entered service. The investigation also highlighted issues with the FAA’s certification process, which essentially handed over key part of the process to Boeing to ‘certify the aircraft themselves’.
The European Union’s aviation governing body, EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) normally certifies new Boeing types by proxy of the FAA, however in order to re-certify the 737 MAX, EASA are looking to seek further requirements to the aircraft beyond that of the FAA.
Whilst the end of the 737 MAX grounding does appear to be in sight, the saga has been fraught with a seemingly endless list of woes. It is therefore still impossible to say when the aircraft will return to the skies, although American Airlines has said it will begin crew training in November 2020, hinting at a potential return to service in any time from late November to early 2021.
Matt is a London-based writer and reporter for International Flight Network who has been involved in aviation from a very young age. He has a particular focus on aircraft safety, accidents and technical details.