U.S. FAA Conducted Boeing 737 MAX Flight Test

United States (US) aviation department said Wednesday, September 30, 2020, that a team of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the leadership of its Chief Steve Dickson conducted a nearly two-hour evaluation flight at Boeing 737 MAX. Chicago-based airplane manufacturing company has been facing struggle as one of its most popular jet models, 737 MAX had been grounded since March 2019 after two tragic crashes.

The FAA’s recent inspection was conducted to assess whether Boeing’s flight was ready to resume its operations since the company claimed it made a series of policy changes and implementation of new programs to ensure the safety of its operations. According to Reuters, If FAA’s inspection of the flight and its broad reviews show positive results, the agency would surely lift its restriction order around in November and the MAX would resume its commercial service before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, the two fatal accidents had forced Boeing to face its worst-ever crisis and led to strain its ties with the FAA. The Boeing crisis raised several questions on the U.S. regulator’s position as the guarantor of aviation safety and caused bipartisan calls in Congress over the issues of how the FAA certified the operations of such airplanes.

FAA’s Boeing 737 MAX Flight Test

The team of the US aviation agency led by Dickson and other FAA pilots landed shortly before 11 a.m. local time (1800 GMT) at King County International Airport, which is also known as Boeing Field, in Seattle area. Following the tests, Dickson said in a statement that he completed new proposed pilot training requirements, a simulator session, and then conducted midair tests of 737 MAX design and operating changes intended to prevent disasters.

Dickson told a news conference, “I like what I saw on the flight,” but added that the final approval for the flight operations was not yet ascertained since the FAA reviews were still going on. He stated, “We are not to the point yet where we have completed the process.”

The executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Dickson’s counterpart in Europe, Patrick Ky commented that the European agency expected to lift its technical ban “not long” after the FAA but granting permission for national operational clearances for individual airlines to resume flying could take longer.

Reforming FAA’s Certification Process

As experts explained that the fatal accidents of Boeing Max in Ethiopia and Indonesia, which killed 346 people in a five-month duration, was because of the failure of a flawed control system known as MCAS, triggered by faulty data from a single airflow sensor. A group representing the victims had made allegations to the FAA about their negligence to oversee the flight operations and conduct regular inspection.

Critics demanded including victims’ representatives that the FAA release test data and other information so outside experts can make their own assessments. “Without that secret data, independent experts and the public cannot confirm whether the aircraft is safe,” said Michael Stumo, whose daughter was among the 157 people killed in the second 737 MAX crash, in Ethiopia.

On a separate occasion on Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to reform the FAA’s aircraft certification process as a consequence of the inquiry related to the 737 MAX crashes.