US Federal Aviation Administration pilots and crew are expected to start the recertification of Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX jetliner, Reuters has reported, citing persons said to be familiar with the situation.
The three-day testing procedure, expected to start on Monday, is expected to begin at Boeing Field outside Seattle, and will assess the plane in various emergency extreme maneuver situations. Later Sunday, Reuters confirmed that the FAA granted approval for the recertifification flight tests to begin, citing an agency email to Congress.
The flights are expected to take place over Washington State, as well as the Pacific coastline, and will include triggering the infamous stall-prevention software thought to have caused the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019, with those incidents killing all 346 people onboard the two planes.
The FAA testing will begin following hundreds of hours of internal Boeing testing aboard both flight simulators and the test plane.
The recertification effort comes at a crucial juncture for Boeing, with the company already resuming production of the 737 MAX at its Renton plant in Washington late last month in a bid to stave off further layoffs and production cuts.
Once intended to become Boeing’s flagship airliner, the 737 MAX has been grounded worldwide since last spring, with Congress investigating the accidents involving the plane while pilots and the families of people killed in the disasters have filed class action lawsuits. The plane’s grounding has led to $19 billion in lost revenues to date, with these losses compounded by the recent economic crisis.
If testing is successful, the FAA is expected to spend several weeks more analyzing data before FAA administrator Steve Dickson personally approves recertification. In any event, according to Reuters’ sources, the plane will not be recertified as flight ready until at least September, particularly given that a number of problems aside from the faulty anti-stall software have been found with the plane.
Ewbank, who resigned from the company in 2015 in protest over design flaws in the 737 MAX, urged the FAA to improve its certification process, and to create channels through which employees can disclose any ethical concerns.
The engineer’s testimony followed the leak of an internal memo in January where the 737 MAX was blasted by company employees as a plane “designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”