After nearly two years of control, business upheaval and a stalemate with global regulators, Boeing Co received approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday to re-fly its 737 MAX after two fatal disasters.
The FAA is making detailed software upgrades and training changes that Boeing must make in order to resume commercial flights after a 20-month landing, the longest in commercial aviation history.
The 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people in five months in 2018 and 2019, sparking a hail of investigations, fraying U.S. leadership in global aviation, and costing Boeing around $ 20 billion.
The U.S. aircraft maker’s best-selling jet will resume commercial service facing severe headwinds from a resurgent coronavirus pandemic, new European trade tariffs, and distrust of one of the most studied brands in aviation.
“Our family was broken,” said Naoise Ryan, whose 39-year-old husband died on board Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, on Tuesday. “We suffer, and most likely will suffer for a very long time, if not for the rest of our lives.”
The 737 MAX is a redesigned upgrade to a jet that was first introduced in the 1960s. Single aisle jets like the MAX and rival Airbus A320neo are workhorses that dominate global fleets and are a major source of industry profits.
American Airlines plans to restart the first commercial MAX flight since it launched on December 29th. Southwest Airlines, the world‘s largest MAX operator, does not plan to fly the aircraft until the second quarter of 2021.
Leading regulators in Europe, Brazil and China are also required to issue their own permits for their airlines following independent reviews. This shows how the crashes of the 737 MAX turned a once-US-dominated flight safety system on its head, with which nations large and small have moved in lockstep for decades – the FAA.
When it flies, Boeing will operate a 24-hour war room to monitor all MAX flights for issues that could affect the return of the jet, from the stalled landing gear to health emergencies, three people familiar with the matter said .
Long runway ahead
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed a no-fly order early Wednesday and the agency released an airworthiness policy outlining the changes required.
The FAA is in need of new pilot training and software upgrades to cope with a stall prevention system called MCAS, which repeatedly and forcefully thrust down the jet’s nose as pilots struggled to regain control.
The FAA, accused in the past of being too close to Boeing, said it would no longer allow Boeing to confirm the airworthiness of around 450 737 MAXs built and parked during the no-fly period. In-person inspections are planned, which may take a year or more to complete, to extend the delivery of the jets.
Boeing, meanwhile, is scrambling to keep maintenance going and find new buyers for many of its mothballed 737 MAX after cancellations were received from their original buyers. The coronavirus crisis will further dampen demand.
Despite all the hurdles, resuming shipments of the 737 MAX Boeing and hundreds of parts suppliers whose finances have been weighed down by production cuts related to the jet’s safety ban will open a critical cash pipeline.
Numerous reports have accused Boeing and the FAA of developing the aircraft. A September report by the US House of Representatives said Boeing had failed to design and develop the MAX and the FAA had failed to monitor and certify.
She also criticized Boeing for withholding important information from the FAA, its customers and pilots, including “hiding the existence of MCAS from 737 MAX pilots”.
Boeing faces lawsuits from accident victim families.
Parliament unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday to reform the FAA’s certification of aircraft, while a Senate panel is due to review a similar bill on Wednesday.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)