The FAA begins test flights of the Boeing 737 Max, a milestone after the accidents


A Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft takes off from Renton Municipal Airport near the company’s factory on March 22, 2019 in Renton, Washington.

Stephen Brashear | fake pictures

The Federal Aviation Administration began recertification flights for the Boeing 737 Max on Monday, a key step in allowing the planes to return to service after two fatal accidents more than a year ago.

Boeing’s best-selling 737 Max has been installed worldwide since March 2019 after the crashes, one in Indonesia and one in Ethiopia, five months apart. All 346 people on the flights died in the accidents. Since then, Boeing has changed a flight control system that was involved in both accidents and has made other adjustments. Additional scrutiny of the aircraft contributed to repeated delays in the recertification process.

Boeing’s shares added to previous gains after the first Max certification flight took off and rose more than 10% in Monday afternoon operations, taking the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a higher level.

“The FAA is following a deliberate process and will take the time to thoroughly review Boeing’s work,” the FAA said in a statement. “We will lift the ground order only after we are satisfied that the aircraft meets the certification standards.”

The first flight departed at 10 am Pacific time from Seattle with other flights scheduled for approximately three days. “The tests are being conducted by pilots and test engineers from the FAA and Boeing,” the FAA said.

The aircraft regulators’ assessment will continue for several more weeks, and Boeing expects them to return to commercial service in late fall. Other steps include an international assessment of the minimum pilot training requirements, the FAA said over the weekend.

“It is important to note that reaching this step does not mean that the FAA has completed its compliance assessment or other work associated with returning to service,” the FAA said in a note to members of Congress on Sunday. “The FAA has not made a decision on return to service. We have several steps left after the completion of the certification flights.”

Boeing late last month resumed production of the planes after a hiatus earlier this year.

While it still has a strong backlog, Boeing has recorded dozens of customer cancellations. The Covid-19 pandemic is also expected to mean lower than usual travel demand for years, Boeing and airline executives said, which could further affect demand for new aircraft.

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