LONDON – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has published a Recission of the Emergency Order of Prohibition for the Boeing 737 MAX, meaning it has been recertified to fly again.

This means the aircraft can now commercially operate again after being grounded for 18 months following the accidents of Lion Air (JT) Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (ET).

The next steps now for airlines who own the aircraft is for the Aircraft Maintenance Manual tasks to be completed, which is the returning of aircraft from storage.

Photo: Brandon Farris

MCAS Should Be Fixed now

The FAA has approved the 737 MAX to fly again on the grounds of the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) being both fully functional and safe.

This means that the 387 delivered jets which are grounded as well as the 395 undelivered jets need to go through a seven-step pre-operational readiness flight audit, which will consist of the installation of the new version of MCAS and its Angle of Attack (AoA) indicators.

On top of this, more guidance has been added in regards to flight training on the type, with the FAA mentioning that full-flight simulators will be required in order to fully train pilots on MCAS and AoA updates. Such training must receive special emphasis on multiple flight deck alerts during non-normal conditions, which must be included in initial, upgrade, transition, and currency retraining.

Photo: Max Langley

Awaiting Other Regulatory Approval

Whilst the Boeing 737 MAX can now fly commercially in the United States, it is now time to wait for the other regulators to approve the aircraft to fly in Europe, Canada, and the rest of the world.

The fact that all other regulatory bodies have not joined the FAA yet means that evidently more scrutiny is being applied to the certification process of the aircraft.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Transport Canada (TC) are the next two regulators to keep an eye out for in terms of their decision related to the aircraft, as EASA and TC said from the start that more scrutiny would be applied.

This is so then the backs are covered on a credibility level, especially with the aircraft already being grounded before.

Photo: Max Langley

Change of Name

The filing also states a change in name for the 737 MAX, which has been rumoured to have happened over the last few months.

The MAX will now become the 737-8 for the MAX 8, 737-9 for the MAX 9, 737-10 for the MAX 10, and 737-7 for the MAX 7. This is understood to be due to the MAX being assigned to the two accidents from JT610 and ET302.

It now ultimately means that Boeing can push the relaunch of the aircraft as a way to start fresh, especially with its sales program, with the aircraft not being 100% tied to the crashes again, which it will be regardless.

Photo: Max Langley

A Big Step

Overall, this is big news for Boeing, as it can now begin to look ahead towards the future and try and get its sales back on track.

For airlines, recertification comes as a blessing during COVID-19, as the man-hours required to get each aircraft in the air do not put pressure on the airlines if the planes are not going to be used due to operational demand.

It will be interesting to see which airline gets the aircraft back in the air first commercially but more importantly, whether the FAA has envisaged and implemented enough scrutiny to keep the aircraft what it should have been in the first place—safe.

This is a developing story.

UPDATE #1 1325BST – Boeing has since commented on the regulatory approval handed out by the FAA. Dave Calhoun, the CEO of Boeing has stated this is a big moment and will never forget the lives lost.

“We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations. These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity.”

Stan Deal, the President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes also added to Calhoun’s words.

“The FAA’s directive is an important milestone. “We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.”

The manufacturer is taking the following steps to strengthen focus on safety and quality:

  1. Organizational Alignment: More than 50,000 engineers have been brought together in a single organization that includes a new Product & Services Safety unit, unifying safety responsibilities across the company.
  2. Cultural Focus: Engineers have been further empowered to improve safety and quality. The company is identifying, diagnosing and resolving issues with a higher level of transparency and immediacy.
  3. Process Enhancements: By adopting next-generation design processes, the company is enabling greater levels of first-time quality.

UPDATE #2 – 1330BST – A memo to Dave Calhoun’s workforce has been leaked, discussing the changes made as a result of the ungrounding of the jet.

UPDATE #3 – 1330BST – As pointed out by The Seattle Times, below is a timeline of the MAX crisis up to the current day, something that has been going on for a long while.

UPDATE #4 – 1430BST – FAA Administrator Steve Dickson spoke to CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning to discuss the changes made to the MAX following its ungrounding.

“This is not the end of this safety journey there is a lot of work that the airlines, and the FAA and Boeing will have to do in the coming weeks and months, but we are entering a new phase with respect to the 737 Max.”

“This airplane, the work that we have done with the design changes and the training changes that will be made to the operators and the training that the pilots will be undergoing makes it impossible for the airplanes to have the same kind of accident that unfortunately killed 346 people.”

“The families, the victims in these crashes, have been foremost in my thoughts and foremost in the thoughts and prayers of everyone at the FAA for the last 20 months as we have gone through this effort.”

“I can tell you that I am 100% confident in the actions that we have taken the design changes that have been put in place with the 737 Max, and I would put my own family on it.”

“And, you know, I understand the concerns, and this is a time to certainly for, for humility. This is not the old FAA relationship with Boeing we have reset that relationship.”

“And we will continue to have a very safety-focused and compliance-focused relationship with Boeing and all manufacturers, going forward.”

“Again, I would put my own family on it, I plan to fly on it myself, but the public will certainly have to make its decisions, but I believe that it is a safe aircraft, it meets our safety and certification standards and I will stand behind that.”

UPDATE #4 – 1435BST – American Airlines has released a memo out to its staff and the public stating that if passengers do not want to fly onboard the aircraft, then they can choose to do so freely.

Featured Image: Boeing 737 MAX. Photo Credit: Nick Sheeder.