The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday that Boeing’s 737 MAX completed a crucial stage of its recertification process, their test flights.
FAA pilots and engineers assessed Boeing’s planned changes in connection with the automated flight control system on the aircraft. The global fleet of 737 MAX planes has been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal wrecks that left 346 people dead. The flight control system is suspected of contributing to both these crashes. The system, known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) was created to make the MAX fly more like the earlier versions of the 737, despite the latest update having larger engines that were mounted farther forward than its predecessors. The system was meant to ease pilot training requirements for airlines that had older versions of the 737 in their fleets.
It could still be a few months before the MAX is cleared for commercial service in the U.S. again. It also remains unclear if foreign regulators will accept the FAA’s recertification as they have historically, or if they will try to do flight testing of their own. Boeing’s relationship with the American regulator has come under scrutiny in the wake of the MAX crashes, and critics have said that the FAA was too partial to the manufacturer.
As Boeing and global authorities have prepared for the MAX to return to service, Boeing and the FAA have taken pains to assure the public that the regulator is in charge and autonomous in its decision in allowing the aircraft to fly again.
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Boeing has good reason to restart Max production as quickly as possible; the company has literal parking lots full of aircraft it had already built, and it needs to move them out. It can’t do that so long as the plane isn’t allowed to fly.
Boeing is presumably aware that having a third aircraft attempt to become the world’s worst drill would kill the product.