Stored aircraft include: American, United, Copa, Fly Dubai, Icelandair, TUI (UK & DE), Shenzhen, Samoa (now NTU?), Norwegian, Turkish, & Air Canada. Photo: Joe G Walker

Article Written by Leila Chaibi, James Field & Jamie Clarke

MIAMI — The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is set to meet with a panel of multi-nation aviation delegates to assess the re-certification of the Boeing 737 MAX flight control software.

Scheduled to meet on April 29, the expected 90-day process of the international “Joint Authorities Technical Review” (JATR) panel is tasked with deliberating on the comprehensive safety analysis of the aircraft.

This development comes following a test flight of a 737 MAX plane with an updated Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), carried out by the FAA on Tuesday.

The assessment will “evaluate aspects of the 737 MAX automated flight-control system, including its design and pilot’s interaction with the system,” said the FAA, in hopes of alleviating future problematic issues with automation and pilot-error or training.

The Boeing 737 MAX anti-stall software and pilot actions linked to two fatal crashes in Indonesia last October and Ethiopia last month, spurred the grounding of the aerospace firm’s all-time best-selling jets in over 60 countries.

This has prompted a regulatory and logistical nightmare worldwide for both manufacturer and consumers alike.

Heading up the review panel, which includes experts from the FAA, NASA and civil aviation dignitaries from China, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Canada, the EU and the United Arab Emirates former chair of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Christopher Hart.

Hart said the international review is in response “to the growing need for globalization … because these airplanes are all over the place” and to the need for a “uniform response,” reports Reuters.

An Busy Month for Boeing

Vowing to make the 737 MAX “one of the safest planes to ever fly” is Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg, as it inches closer to the final steps in re-certification and revitalization of the Boeing MAX brand.

On Tuesday 16 April, Boeing carried out a test flight with an updated MCAS System which was widely considered as a key milestone into getting the 737 MAX aircraft re-certified.

The FAA and other international aviation authorities have been in direct contact with Boeing and have been liaising between each other to analyze Boeing’s progress in fixing the MAX’s MCAS System.

In the wake of the two recent crashes of the 737 MAX aircraft, two U.S. Senators, Susan Collins, and Jack Reed, have written a letter to the Inspector General of the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) to audit the re-certification process that is being carried out by the FAA.

In the letter, the two Senators requested that the audit examines the approval process of the MCAS System, pilot training requirements for MCAS and how Boeing has communicated new aircraft features such as MCAS to its customers.

Since this letter, there have been multiple hearings between the FAA and US DOT, to which in one, the acting head of the FAA, Daniel K. Elwell has defended the FAA stating that the agencies certification practices are “extensive and well-established.”

Photo: Joe G Walker

Following the 90-day analysis that the JATR are due to carry out, all aviation governing bodies should then come to an agreement as to whether the fixes that Boeing have done to the MCAS deem the 737 MAX safe to fly again or if more work still needs to be done.

This analysis will cover the fixes that Boeing is implementing and how Boeing communicate new aircraft features to customer airlines.

With the investigations into both Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes still ongoing, it is the regulator’s duty to ensure that the re-certification is thorough, comprehensive, and guarantees the safe operation of the aircraft type in the future.

What’s Ahead For Boeing and the 737 MAX Program?

It seems clear that looking at the progress Boeing have made into resolving the MCAS issues on the 737 MAX family aircraft, we would expect the plane to return to the skies towards the end of summer 2019 with deliveries resuming at a reduced rate at the end of the year.

Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737 MAX. PHOTO: Brandon Farris.

In the meantime, Boeing seems to have lost customer trust and faith in the 737 MAX program with multiple airlines pondering the potential cancelation of their orders over the concerns of the safety of the aircraft.