The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has completed a series of test flights for the Boeing 737 MAX that took place over the last three days.
The operations mark an important milestone in Boeing’s bid to get the aircraft recertified and back in the air – following a worldwide grounding since March 2019 that came after the type was involved in two fatal crashes.
During three days of testing, which began on June 29, FAA pilots and engineers evaluated the manufacturer’s proposed changes in connection to the automated flight control system on the aircraft, namely the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was deemed a contributory factor in both incidents.
In a statement, the regulator said: “While completion of the flights is an important milestone, a number of key tasks remain, including evaluating the data gathered during these flights.
“We will lift the grounding order only after FAA safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards,” the announcement continued.
The agency also set out the type’s path to re-entering commercial service with airlines and operators. The next step will see the FAA evaluate the minimum pilot training requirements through a report drafted by its Flight Standardisation Board (FSB).
Once the FSB report has been published, the FAA plans to review Boeing’s final design documentation in order to evaluate compliance with the regulations. The multi-agency Technical Advisory Board (TAB) will also then examine and produce a report prior to the FAA determining compliance.
The following step will see the agency issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification (CAN) to the international community, which will provide notice of pending significant safety actions. An Airworthiness Directive (AD), which addresses the known issues for grounding, will then be circulated. The AD will advise operators of required corrective actions before the aircraft may re-enter commercial service.
Subsequently, the grounding – which has now lasted nearly 500 days – will then officially be over.
The FAA says it will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates for all new 737 MAX aircraft built since the grounding. This comes after it revoked the manufacturer’s authority to self-issue certificates in November last year.