LONDON – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Director Steve Dickson said that he felt “comfortable” on board a Boeing 737 MAX test flight. However, he did note that the FAA is “not to the point yet where we completed the process.”
For now, Dickson has finally flown on the aircraft following the announcement last week that he would do so to determine its safety. He had previously said that he would not clear the planes for service until he flew on board.
Testing the Boeing 737 MAX-7
Dickson piloted the smallest variant of the aircraft, dubbed the Boeing MAX 7, and noted that the aircraft replicated changes to the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that caused the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 around two years ago.
“I liked what I saw,” he told reporters. “I felt that the training prepared me to be very comfortable.”
No Clear Timeline Yet
Dickson gave no clear timeline on when the aircraft could re-enter service at the present time, noting that the FAA and other regulators need to give official approval, which has not been acquired yet. However, American Airlines (AA) has said that it is preparing to train its 737 Pilots on the aircraft by November. AA currently has around 24 MAX aircraft in its fleet.
It would suggest therefore a belief within the carrier that the aircraft will be re-certified by year-end, but again this could all change. The manufacturer resumed production of the jet back in May this year, amid the potential for the aircraft to be back in the skies soon.
No Further News for Airlines
Whilst this is a good step for Boeing, it does not provide news for airlines that either have the aircraft in the fleet already or are expecting their deliveries. This has resulted in the likes of Avolon deferring deliveries of the aircraft until re-entry to service is a more likely thing.
Virgin Australia (VA) also did the same thing, by deferring deliveries until 2025 at the latest. Even last year, Ryanair (FR), which are still waiting for the MAX 200 Gamechanger aircraft, had to limit its Summer schedule for this year (pre-COVID) because of this.
The next stage is the waiting game. As the extensive testing begins to come to some sort of an end, all eyes will now be on the regulators to approve the aircraft back into service. Particular focus will be on the FAA, especially with its previous cultures of delegating most of the certification process over to Boeing.
It will certainly be interesting to hear from an external body, such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Transport Canada (TC), to see how easily it will approve the certification for Europe and Canada.
For now, we just have to wait and see. The unpredictable nature of this continued crisis does not seem to have an end-date just yet.
Featured Image: Boeing 737 MAX 7. Photo Credit: CNBC