US regulator Boeing completes 737 MAX certification test flights

A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft lands after a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, USA, June 29, 2020.

Karen Ducey | Reuters

The Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing have completed certification test flights on the 737 MAX, a key milestone for the plane’s return to service, the US regulator said Wednesday.

The MAX has been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal accidents in five months that killed 346 people.

The FAA said it has yet to evaluate the data from the three days of testing and has other tasks to complete.

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

Boeing declined to comment, saying it would defer to the FAA statement.

Evidence of Boeing’s proposed changes to the plane’s automated flight control system is a turning point in the company’s worst corporate crisis. The FAA must complete the data review, approve new pilot training procedures, among other steps, and is unlikely to approve the takeoff of the plane until mid-September, Reuters reported this week.

If that happens, the plane is on track to resume US service before the end of the year, in a process fraught with delays.

The crisis cost Boeing more than $ 18 billion, cut production and hampered its supply chain, with criminal and congressional investigations still ongoing. In December, Boeing fired CEO Dennis Muilenburg after scrutiny over the plane’s design and development tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators.

A general report by the Transportation Department inspector reported by Reuters on Tuesday criticized Boeing for failing to disclose information to the FAA about a key safety system known as MCAS linked to both fatal accidents.

Boeing agreed to add important safeguards to MCAS, make other software updates, and move wiring packages that the FAA said posed a safety hazard.