FAA & Boeing Complete 737 MAX Certification Flights

Filed Under: Misc.

The Boeing 737 MAX was grounded in March 2019, after two fatal crashes just months apart. Over the past 15 months Boeing has been working towards recertification, and it looks like that may soon become a reality.

Boeing completes 737 MAX certification flight

On Monday, pilots and test crew members from both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration began three days of test flights intended to once again get the 737 MAX certified. Well, that has gone as scheduled, and these test flights were wrapped up yesterday (Wednesday).

Specifically, a Boeing 737 MAX 7 with the registration code N7201S performed the following key flights:

  • On Monday the plane operated a 2hr3min flight from Boeing Field to Moses Lake, and then a 1hr53min flight from Moses Lake to Boeing Field
  • On Tuesday the plane operated a 3hr56min flight from Boeing Field to Moses Lake, and then a 33min flight from Moses Lake back to Boeing Field
  • On Wednesday the plane operated a 21min flight to & from Boeing Field

The test flights over the past three days have been intended to evaluate Boeing’s proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the 737 MAX.

They ran scripted mid-air scenarios that included steep bank turns, progressing to more extreme maneuvers. On top of that, the reprogrammed MCAS was tested, as that’s what was involved in both crashes.

Prior to these flights, Boeing had already performed dozens of test flights with this exact Boeing 737 MAX 7, so what’s new here is that FAA officials were onboard as well.

When should we expect the 737 MAX to be certified?

While there were initially only three days of test flights, don’t expect that this means the 737 MAX will be certified by the end of the week, or anything. The FAA said the following in a statement:

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

It goes without saying that these test flights were a key component of the certification process, and now the data from these flights needs to be carefully analyzed.

Then at some point in the future (we’re talking weeks, not days), FAA Administrator Steve Dickson will likely take a similar test flight, since he has promised the plane won’t be certified until he has signed off on it. The FAA then needs to approve new training procedures for pilots.

With that, most put the timeline of the 737 MAX being certified to September at the earliest. That’s if everything goes well, which seems optimistic given all the delays we’ve seen up to this point.

Even once the jet is certified by the FAA, Boeing and 737 MAX operators still face a massive uphill battle (not even accounting for the pandemic, which has destroyed demand for air travel):

  • How will airlines get passengers comfortable with the thought of flying the 737 MAX?
  • Will other global regulators go along with the FAA’s certification, given how much trust has been lost in the organization as a result of this mess?

Bottom line

The 737 MAX has this week completed its certification flights, though it’ll probably be a while before we know if the data from these flights makes them a success. All of this comes about 15 months after the plane was grounded globally.

These test flights were an important step in getting the 737 MAX back into service, though best case scenario we’re still likely months from the plane being certified.

Once certified by the FAA, the next challenge will be convincing passengers and global regulators that the plane is safe to fly.

Comments
  1. Still won’t fly it. Not because I believe it to be unsafe, but because it’s a relic of Boeing’s greed and gross negligence.

  2. Boeing is an American company FAA an American organisation, their certification won’t be acceptable by other countries especially the EU region. After the fiasco with the Max and the public perception towards these planes.

    Boeing should understand this model is a failure and scrap it. They have put advanced engines and electronics on a 35 year old frame.

    Boeing makes safe and reputable planes right from the 747 to the 777 and 787. They made 1 mistake with the Max. They should accept the mistake and develop a new replacement for the 737 series. It’s not easy as millions have gone into the Max already and developing a new series will cost billions but when mistakes happens there is a cost.

    When you turn stubborn and do not accept your mistakes and rectify that’s the beginning of the end.

  3. I’m with SS. I’d like to see standalone European certification of this aeroplane. I don’t trust the FAA in the slightest. Especially not with the potential for political interference as things currently stand.

  4. Fortunately I live in Europe so my narrow body flights are with A320s both old and new, therefore the 737 MAX anxiety just isn’t as prevalent for me as it is for Americans. Even if BA were to proceed with their 200 737 MAX order, easyJet will do as a short haul alternative. I might feel less reserved about flying them if the EASA ran an independent certification process for the plane type…

  5. I have no plans of flying it either. Does Trump or any head of state of the EU or other countries willing to fly and be a passenger in it too?
    I agree with others Boeing should have just scrapped it and start from scratch and design a new plane.

  6. To all those “I will never fly 737MAX again”
    Jokes on you.

    On paper and in financial terms, the 737MAX is still a great plane, airlines will fly them especially in a tough time when every penny counts.
    With more planes being retired, once air travel picks up, you will end up with a higher ratio of 737MAX than ever. Good luck avoiding that.

  7. Eskimo, you’re logic does have some flaws. While airlines may be happy with the cost per seat mile of this plane over its predecessors, they still can not make any money if passengers are not willing to fly on it. This reminds me of the DC-10. Even once it was deemed safe after multiple issues, the public wasn’t willing to fly on it. It made a plane that could’ve been great, a commercial failure. While the plane might look good in the eyes of the airline, if passengers do decide to boycott it, it will be an unmitigated disaster for Boeing, and likely some airlines.

  8. Kyle, you’re logic has two major flaw also. It assumes that airlines will state that the flight is being serviced by a 737 max vs a 737-800 or some other variation. Even if the airlines do stipulate between models they will likely not say 737MAX, but rather something vague like 737M. You are assuming that the average consumer will see and understand that distinction which is highly unlikely. Additionally, most of the readers of this blog seem to not understand that consumers care way more about the cost of the ticket than the method for which they go there. The airlines will understand this and potentially make flights on max aircraft cheaper to compensate for the added “risk”. And if you don’t believe me, I ask that you consider how Allegiant Airlines is still operating despite their absolutely abysmal safety record. It’s because in most cases consumers just want stuff for as cheap as they can get it and won’t worry about the rest.

  9. @Eskimo – I second your comment. 737MAX is like sugar daddy for airlines (LCCs and full-service carriers regardless). Plus, with all these rigorous tests, we could expect the best safety standards from 737MAX, cuz we know, if a 737MAX falls from the sky one more time, they are screwed up as heck. And with all these rigorous tests, we could expect full transparency from Boeing and the FAA. 737MAX is now a gemstone and with all carriers now focussed on shrinking themselves and moving to the narrow-body fleet with a wider range, 737MAX is the best choice!
    COVID-19 has helped people divert their minds from this MAX saga. So, the general public who aren’t too much into airplanes is eventually gonna forget it.

  10. I will have no fear of flying Max because it will be safe
    Or investing in Boeing stock because of its duopoly with airbus.

  11. @Eskimo – pretty easy here in the US to avoid the 737MAX – fly Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, or Frontier.

  12. what i don’t understand is, why do the testing on a max 7? How is no one else talking about the most glaring issue here? Why are they testing and certifying a -7 when the -8 is the one with the problems and literally nobody has orders for a -7? Why not test the actual type that got them into trouble in the first place? I’m not a pilot, but my dad is, and he loves flying the NG-700. Said it’s the easiest to fly. Said the -7 has better yaw control (on account that it’s shorter) than the -8 or -9. So it seems to me that the certification is a red herring unless they plan on separately testing and certifying the -8 or -9, which Lucky doesn’t note either way. Ultimately, testing / certifying the -7 will do nothing to assuage my concerns about the issues with the larger jets.

  13. @Kelt – Tbh, that’s a valid point. The -8 variant suffered the crashes and the centre point of the whole MAX scandal. I am not really sure but I guess the main aim of today’s test flight was to check out the redesigned MCAS system which is most probably gonna be the same for all three variants. I am not realllllllllly sure but yeah.

  14. @Eskimo

    Will see about that. With current competition it does not matter that your company has more cost efficent planes than old A320 ifpassangers will not agree to fly it. MAX story is beyond repair.

  15. WOW the politics reek !

    While I agree the FAA and Boeing equally share the blame in handling of the Max, and they need to pay for it, I also understand that the responders from the EU have their issues with the US, I get all that and I don’t disagree with that as well. I get it.

    Having said that, for those in the EU AB is not without its issues when it comes to corporate actions and bashing the US while it’s in vogue these days it could come back to haunt. What Americans don’t do is forget. we do stupid things at times but we remember.

  16. @kelt, you have a fair question but aircraft certification doesnt work that way. All max variants are mostly same. In certification world, you can certify a system on any variant and claim similarity for rest of the variants if you can make your case to FAA that they are almost identical. Thats how Boeing is doing it and thats how whole industry works. I saw somebody’s comment that they want independent certification bu EASA, thats probably going to happen on paper but eventually aviation authorities work together and easa will most probably do additional checks if faa approves it. Also, for people who are not familiar with part 25 certification requirements, faa part 25 rules are almost identical with easa part 25 with some exceptions. So you wont get much by independent evaluation from easa.
    And I do agree with @Biz guy

  17. The 737 MAX is simply no good in every single way … Airbus narrow bodies are safer and use wider cabin which equals better comfort .

  18. The 737 and eventually the MAX will be just fine, When the A320 first came out, the NWA pilots called them “SCUDS” because you never knew where they would land since the flight control system was likely to fail. Like everything else new, it worked itself out. The 737 is a workhorse and yes costly mistakes were made and the FAA and other government bodies around the world looked the other way and because of this people lost their lives. There is also blame to go around at Lion Air since they did not follow proper maintenance protocols which meant the plane should have never flown the next flight and Ethiopian training is suspect still (plus the didn’t order all the optional safety equipment like AA or SWA did).

    That being said, there were costly lessons learned and for a while we will make sure every
    “t” is crossed and “i” is dotted but down the road, these same mistake will happen again.

  19. Ignorance is going to be their best hope for customers returning to this plane. For those who are aware of this plane, it’s going to be a hard sell.

    While I’m not terribly afraid, I will admit that I wouldn’t want to be on the first few flights once re-certified.

    I couldn’t only imagine the reaction of some who don’t realize until they’re on board and hear the typical flight attendant safety briefing… “Ladies and gentleman, located in the seat back pocket in front of you, you’ll find safety data card for the Boeing 737 Max 8”.

  20. Tiffany & Ben,

    I haven’t received the newsletter for the past two days, is there something going on? anyone else having the same issue?

    and no, not in spam folder. 🙁

  21. Has any other regulators actually fully certified a plane before (eg. CAA, EASA), or have they always just agreed with whatever the FAA says?

  22. @ Ray

    There is no BA order for 200.

    There is an IAG letter of intent (still not an order) for 200 (that would – if they were ever delivered – be split across the IAG family of airlines) but they basically admitted it was more to push Airbus to speed up production than any sort of vote of confidence in the Max.

    Virtually no one believes that the Letter of Intent will actually result in any actual firm orders or options.

  23. I would not personally fly this plane if I can possibly avoid it. Hopefully nobody else dies because of corporate greed and rubber stampers at the FAA

  24. Maybe the airlines can take ownership of these planes and use them to transport all the passengers that refuse to wear masks. They are, after all, the customers willing to take great risks. Perhaps a silver lining for Boeing.

  25. @Kyle

    Your you’re is flaw 🙂

    And it is good that you believed DC-10 went out of favor due to public pressure. It didn’t but the airlines want you to believe that they care for your safety opinion and phase out the DC-10.
    If you do remember all AA did was remove “DC-10” from the “DC-10 Luxury Liner” and kept them flying for 30 years. Continental Northwest and United also flew them over 30 years.
    So much for ‘public pressure’.

    Contrast to public belief, truth is DC-10 is a very reliable jet (after they fix the cargo door) and it went out because twin jets have ETOPS. It served airlines well for decades after the cargo door incidents. The DC-10 wasn’t a commercial failure at all, it’s successor the MD-11 was.
    The over two decade old DC-10s are all replaced by, twin jets. The 767, 777, or A330.

    Did I mention FedEx is still flying DC-10 and chances some of your Amazon.com package flown with them.

    Also, like the DC-10 which has a design flaw, the 737MAX and the MCAS (which isn’t even a design flaw but a software flaw) will overcome all the flaws and be back as an efficient workhorse once again.

    Remember this, many years from now if the airline just says its a 737, that’s their PR machine tricking you into flying the 737MAX.
    So again I have to stress. To all those “I will never fly 737MAX again”
    Jokes on you.

  26. @ Ray

    You should do some basic research on a A320neo. While it hasn’t had high profile accidents like the 737MAX, the A320neo has similar control issues that could go terribly wrong as well. Don’t assume Airbus is any different

  27. It took just six posts before some turned “ad hominem” — bravo! So woke, so inclusive… that’s why we can’t have nice things these days, we lost the ability to stay on the topic. It’s all about personal attacks nowadays.

  28. I see a line of comments here regarding the airlines having issues with the public flying the 737MAX. While I am on the side of those of you who deride the MAX as a lousy aircraft (I believe I’ve called it the Frankenstein’s monster of aviation), I disagree that nobody will fly it. The general public is, as a rule: uninformed, naive, fickle, and – as far as travel is concerned – interested only in price. That’s the majority. Not us here at this blog, as we are enthusiasts. But at the airport, that’s who you see.

    Airlines know this, as does Boeing. So, they will just call it a 737-8 (which is technically correct anyhow) and only the more informed among us will know the difference. And this strategy will actually work quite well. Whether we like this POS aircraft or not.

  29. Will they also do similar flight test on the -8,-9 & -10? There are significant variations in size & weight between the various versions, and one does not have to be an engineer or have a phd in physics to understand they all have differences in handling, CG etc.

  30. What’s the point of saving money if you are dead? “Let me take a trip in this piece of crap plane to save a few bucks. The savings will be pointless if I die but I’m so cheap I don’t care!”

  31. To the folks wondering why they did this with a 7 and not the 8. Great questions. And even if certification thinks all variants are the same, you would hope that out of an abundance of caution they’d test them all. We all know the performance of the prior generation, 737-700 vs 739ER, are vastly different. And yes, I know they aren’t MAXes. They also weren’t falling out of the sky a lot. Point is, the MAX7 and the MAX8 are not the same plane.

  32. You’re more likely to die of car accidents or COVID than flying in a re-certified, scrutinized 737 MAX.

    Sometimes OMAAT commenters need to step out of the weird bubble they live in. They probably won’t, because of COVID. lol

  33. What are the cash flow/delivery implications if/when FAA approves? Boeing is likely spending a ton storing these birds, and the airlines aren’t exactly flush with cash. Can Boeing force deliveries once certified?

  34. @Eskimo – on paper most things look good.

    On paper feathers stuck with wax onto a wooden frame looked good.

    In practice not so goo

    And EASA (the European safety agency) have said they will run through everything Boeing and the FAA produce with a fine toothcomb. The days of other air safety regulator simply following the FAA have long gone.

  35. I’d hate to be running any airline right now during the COVID crisis but WN has to be a total nightmare with the MAX failure cranked into the equation. Their orders and deliveries of this turkey must be a looming four aspirin headache every day.

    One has to wonder if the leadership of UA and AA are considering unloading their MAX planes and canceling their future orders since they are less vested. It’s going to be hard enough to get people flying again once the virus is under control without the MAX fear persuading business passengers to book away to DL and other carriers.

  36. @ChrisC

    I don’t really get your feather analogy. But I’m very sure the EASA will approve this along with CAAC (which I come to highly respect from the 737MAX incident). I also agree FAA has lost all its credibility and not just from the 737MAX but also how they (did not) handle the COVID situation.

    The 737MAX is a great plane that will fly for decades to come. Airlines know that.
    Like my answer to @kyle last week, look at DC-10. Once the cargo door was fixed, there has never been a crash from the cargo door again. The cargo door crash happened in the 70s, and many of them flown with major airlines well into the 2000s. So much for bad reputation.

    If people really want to blame the DC-10, blame them for their death blow to the Concorde.
    Funny part is that most people probably already forgot about the Continental DC-10.

    @Eric Probst
    Per agreement (pre COVID), I’m sure Boeing can force delivery or it’s going to be now the airlines who will face penalty. What a turn of events. But they are not off the hook yet. Boeing still needs to find some way to get cash from the airlines who don’t really have cash too. For airlines it might still be better to pay the penalty and cancel their order outright when everyone is downsizing their fleets.

  37. The De Havilland Comet had several hull losses due to fatigue cracks, was reengineered and flew for years. The Lockheed Electra L-188 had several hull losses from a defect that caused the engine mounts to fail, it went on to fly for years. An Airbus A320 crashed at the Paris Air Show in 1988, the pilot claiming the “fly by wire” stopped responding to pilot input and the manufacturer claiming pilot error. The A320 is still flying thousands of segments daily despite that never being finally determined.

    The Max will be relabeled and be flying for another twenty years.

  38. I’d fly on this plane as soon as it’s signed-off. And I’ll have absolutely zero concerns over its safety, as long as it’s flown by a qualified, appropriately-trained pilot (so, sorry, no trips on PIA or similar airlines).

    My only concerns would be the standard gripes about sitting in coach on a 737, no different from any other.

    This plane will be in service and will be widely used around the world for decades. You will all ride along on it many times and won’t even notice. It’s a plain-vanilla, narrow-body jet. Nothing special.

    I’m a lifelong pilot and yes, I value my skin just as much as any of you airworthiness and safety experts out there.

  39. Kelt,
    Please be sure of your facts before commenting. On the second day of test flights a B737MAX-8 went through the same flight test review as the -7, same test crew….

  40. @Michael Hassall

    Exactly. The Comet, DC-10 or the Electra had ‘design’ problems. Where the the physics are flawed.
    The A320 or 737MAX is a ‘software’ problem, not ‘design’. The physics are perfectly fine, just the computer (MCAS) needs an update. And please don’t bring up engine position or center of gravity stuff, they are all pre-calculated and completely fine.

    For people who still don’t get it.
    The bent iPhone 6 or the exploding Galaxy Note 7 is a ‘design’ problem. It’s a matter of time before it fails.
    Your iOS needs update is a ‘software’ problem. It’s all fine, you just need new software.

  41. @Eskimo
    Just one moment. There are software failures, errors call them what you may, due to design problems. Well known and true.

    MCAS is a software system that compensates for hardware design, not as hand in glove WITH the design. Either type of software system can fail to do its job. What is important is whether or not the resultant situation will inevitably cause a crash, or whether return to manual intervention can recover an airworthy frame.

    I didn’t even like my ride on a -900. There was an unusual “bump” which caused panic to be written all over the faces of a dead heading cockpit crew, which was not a pleasant experience for one who has experienced violent turbulence (747-200 notably) without a blink.

  42. I will NEVER fly on a 737 MAX, or anything that it’s sneakily renamed to. There is a principle at stake way beyond personal safety. Boeing should have scrapped the 737 MAX, taken the hit, and designed a new plane with taller landing gear better able to accommodate larger diameter engines. They fell behind Airbus. Sure that’s a product strategy mistake. But don’t react by putting a sticking plaster on an outdated airframe and killing hundreds of people as a result.

  43. @UpperDeckJohnny

    MCAS is “ONE” software system that compensates for hardware design.
    If you remove “ANY” software system that compensates for hardware design. You will be flying on a DC-6 or 707.
    Even the beloved A320 or 777 software failure can inevitably cause a crash.
    You do know that metal tubes doesn’t float in the air right? So under your logic every metal tube flying right now IS a design problem. Nothing heavier than air should be flying. And a dementia bird (is that even a thing?) will suddenly fall off the sky.

    Read the “For people who still don’t get it.” part again.
    And if you can see the faces of a dead heading cockpit crew, you of all people should know better.

  44. Is the FAA going certify each type? There is a big difference between 7max thru the 10max. And on another note Delta is in serious talks with Boeing about the 10max for a trade with 717 when the lease ends.

  45. While I tend to agree with those who say they won’t fly the MAX, it won’t impact most of the flying public; they aren’t reading blogs like this one and have no clue what kind of plane they’re on. If the EU re-certifies, then the MAX will be with us for many years to come.

  46. The A320 crashed in it’s public demonstration flight because the pilot didn’t understand the new electronics … and I think we’d all agree it’s turned out just fine. Once pilots understand what they are flying (and shame on Boeing for trying to hide this), everything will be fine. The max will be the safest, most scrutinized plane in the sky once it’s back.

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