In a major step toward a return to commercial operations, Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft took its first flight in 15 months on Monday, June 29, as part of efforts to gain an airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The aircraft was grounded by airlines around the world in March 2019 following two crashes that killed a total of 346 people.
A 737 Max 7 departed Boeing Field in Seattle at 9:55 a.m. PT on Monday for the first round of testing. Boeing test pilots flew the jet several hours east for a brief stop at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, before returning to Boeing Field later in the day.
The aircraft took circuitous rather than direct routes as the pilots performed a number of tests during the outing, later confirmed by the FAA in a statement.
“The certification flights are expected to take approximately three days,” the administration said. “They will include a wide array of flight maneuvers and emergency procedures to assess whether the changes meet FAA certification standards.”
The FAA added that although the certification flights are an important step in getting the 737 Max back into commercial service, “a number of key tasks remain,” including the necessity to conduct a thorough review of Boeing’s work. “We will lift the grounding order only after we are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards,” the FAA said.
Digital Trends has reached to the FAA to find out how long the process might take, and we will update this piece when we hear back.
The 737 Max was removed from service last year following two fatal crashes in the space of five months. The first happened in October 2018 when a Lion Air flight came down near Jakarta, Indonesia, resulting in the deaths of all 157 passengers and crew. Then, in March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed near Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, killing all 189 people on board.
The crashes were caused by a fault with the jet’s automated flight control system, which sent the planes into nosedives. Boeing set about developing a fix, which is now being tested, though during the Max’s grounding several other faults were also identified and therefore had to be addressed. The FAA will be assessing all of these issues as it considers whether to grant an airworthiness certificate for the aircraft.
Around 500 Max jets were in service globally when the aircraft was grounded. Boeing has a further 400 in storage waiting to be delivered to customers. After suspending production in January 2020, the aerospace giant recently announced it was once again building the 737 Max.
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