After nearly two years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to sign off on the Boeing 737 MAX. This will lift the ban against flying the infamous aircraft responsible for two crashes and deaths of all on board.
The entire global fleet of nearly 400 737 MAX were grounded worldwide in March 2019 following the two crashes — Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019. Passengers and crew totaling 346 souls on board both flights perished.
FAA and 737 MAX Scrutiny
The 737 MAX faced intense scrutiny into the policies and regulatory practices of the FAA in the aftermath. Boeing came under fire for rushing the aircraft without proper guidance and training. The aircraft is derived from a 1960’s design, but re-engined in the latest MAX version.
It is reported that FAA Administrator Steve Dickson will sign an order today lifting the flight ban on the 737 MAX. As part of the conditions Boeing had to make several modifications. The FAA and European Union authorities are seeking additional new pilot training and software upgrades with the approvals.
The cause of the crashes has been identified as a stall-prevention system called MCAS. Its sensors falsely detected stalls in the planes and resulted in the 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The financial cost to Boeing is more than $20 Billion and the company saw a cancellation of many orders for the aircraft.
Going Forward With the 737 MAX
The House of Representatives held congressional hearings of both the FAA and Boeing. One consequence of those hearings led to a newly passed bill to reform the certification practices of the FAA.
Boeing has some 450 already built 737 MAX’s. Future planes must be individually inspected by FAA employees to be signed for air readiness.
As anticipated in late October, I wrote that American Airlines planned to start flying passengers on their 737 MAX aircraft in December. In fact, American Airlines will now relaunch passenger 737 MAX flights on Dec. 29. Southwest Airlines says it will hold off until the second quarter of 2021. The grounding severely hurt Southwest’s operations; they have 34 MAX’s in their fleet, with more than 275 on order. This makes Southwest the largest operator of the 737 MAX.
Besides the European Union (EU) other countries must also certify the return of the 737 MAX into their jurisdictions. Included in this group is China who was swift to ground the MAX in 2019. Given the current pandemic, suffering economies and strained relations between the US and China; approvals may come slowly.
Once the 737 MAX returns to the skies, Boeing plans to monitor all flights checking for any issues which could impact the plane’s safety and performance. Now that the FAA will approve the Boeing 737 MAX for flight, let’s hope they will be monitoring closely as well.
Do you feel that both the FAA and Boeing have done everything to ensure the safety of the MAX? Are you ready to hop on board?
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