September 28, 2020

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Boeing could conduct 737 MAX test flight next week: reports

The fourth-generation of Boeing’s best-selling plane has been grounded globally since March 2019 after two fatal crashes. A certification flight test is a key step in the plane’s return to service.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an American airplane regulator, could conduct a test flight for the Boeing 737 MAX, a critical step for recertifying the plane for service, as early as next week, according to multiple reports.

Reuters cited two people briefed of the matter as saying that a certification flight test, which is expected to last at least two days, could begin as early as Tuesday, but still hasn’t been finalized.

The FAA would then need to approve new pilot training procedures and complete other steps, leading to the plane’s potential ungrounding in September, the British news agency said.

The FAA spokesman said on Friday that it was “reviewing Boeing’s documentation to determine whether the company has met the criteria to move to the next stage of evaluation.”

“We will conduct the certification flights only after we are satisfied with that data,” the spokesman said.

Boeing’s best-selling plane has been grounded since March of last year after two fatal crashes, a Lion Air flight in October 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March 2019, killed 346 people.

The crashes cost the American passenger jet manufacturer billions of dollars and led to the resignation of its former chief executive Dennis Muilenburg, who repeatedly gave overly optimistic predictions of when the plane could return to service.

Manufacturing defect

News of the reported certification flight came two days after the FAA said the 737 MAX planes needed to be inspected for a manufacturing defect on engine coverings.

The defect could lead to loss of power during flights, but it was not related to the MCAS flight-control system that led to nosedives before the two deadly crashes. 

Then on Thursday, FAA administrator Steve Dickinson confirmed to the Chicago Tribune newspaper that an indicator light erroneously activated because of an issue with the flight control computer.

The American newspaper reported that Boeing said it was working to resolve the issue and didn’t believe it would cause further delays.

Boeing has said it expects the 737 MAX to be recertified in time to resume deliveries sometime during the third quarter, though it has said the timing will ultimately be determined by the FAA.

dv/mm (AFP, Reuters) (DW)