New York: Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft may take their first test flight from Monday, an important step for the company’s star model to survive for 14 months. Two sources associated with the case told AFP on Friday that the flight could take place early next week. Neither Boeing nor the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the flight when asked for comment on Sunday. A Boeing spokesman told AFP, “We work diligently to get the 737 Max back in service. We avoid the FAA and global regulators on this process.”
Max was frozen globally from March 13, 2019, following an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people. A few months after the crash of Lion Air Max, 189 people were killed in the disaster. The disturbing similarities between the two accidents, which occurred both immediately after takeoff, coupled with the pilots’ inability to regain control of the aircraft, led global aviation officials to land the model indefinitely.
For months, the American aviation company has been struggling to get its medium-haul aircraft – whose sales were the main source of revenue before grounding – back into service. The model’s anti-stall flight system, MCAS, was partially to blame for both accidents. But other technical flaws, including electrical wiring, were later detected during the aircraft’s modification process, slowing its recurrence.
For weeks, Boeing has had to wait for a green light from authorities to conduct test flights to provide maximum security.
Civil aviation authorities cannot approve the revised model until they have examined how it performs in flight. They will also look at thousands of data points collected during flights. For this reason, three days of test flights are planned, according to the New York Times. They will take off from Boeing Field outside Seattle, the manufacturer’s birthplace in the northwestern US state of Washington.
The weather is difficult to predict, but forecasts show that Monday will be partly cloudy, with a slight wind and rain chances of 10 percent. According to the Times, the FAA pilot will be in control to test modifications made on the aircraft, and the Boeing test pilot will also be on board.
In general, test flights are carefully prepared.
Delay after delay
A few months ago, Boeing anticipated that MAX would return to service around June 2020. But the coronovirus epidemic, which resulted in attempted travel restrictions and lockdown measures and slowed its spread, upset the schedule. According to The Seattle Times, European and Canadian aviation authorities have called for substantial new changes to the flight control system of the aircraft.
The newspaper reported that the two regulators agreed with the FAA that Boeing would need to make these additional design changes … only after Max returned to service, “the newspaper reported. When asked by AFP for further details, a Boeing spokesman said on Friday that safety is the company’s top priority. The spokesperson also said that Boeing is committed to answering regulatory questions and meeting all certification and regulatory requirements.
An immediate 737 MAX needs to be brought back into the air to get Boeing out of the historic crisis.
The aircraft accounted for more than two-thirds of the company’s order book and is therefore critical to the manufacturer’s mid-term survival – which, like the entire aviation industry, suffers from the effects of the coronavirus crisis. In late April, Boeing released details on a plan to cut total headscount by 10 percent, or about 16,000 employees in all.
In March, credit rating agency S&P downgraded its rating for BBB from Boeing-A, moving it into a speculative category.
Additional modifications required by foreign aviation authorities can add substantial cost to the MAX program. They could also slow the increase in deliveries that Boeing would need to rebuild its cash flow.