In mid-March the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded globally, so it has now been well over two months since the plane has been flying commercially. This has had significant impacts on airline operations, though seemed like a necessary move.
Airlines have been updating their schedules to reflect the Boeing 737 MAX being out of service at different paces — some airlines have removed the plane from the schedule only in the short-term, while others don’t have it in the schedule through the end of the year. So the question of when the plane will be flying once again is something we don’t yet have an answer to.
Well, it looks like we’re now one step closer to that happening. Per a statement from the company, Boeing has completed development of the updated software for the 737 MAX, along with associated simulator testing and company test flights. The 737 MAX with the updated MCAS software has been flown for more than 360 hours on 207 flights.
Now Boeing is providing additional information to address FAA requests that include details on how pilots interact with the plane controls and displays in different flight scenarios. Once those requests are addressed, Boeing will work with the FAA to schedule its certification test flight and submit final certification documentation.
On top of that, Boeing has developed new training and education materials currently being reviewed by the FAA, to support return-to-service and longer-term operations.
Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s CEO, had the following say:
“With safety as our clear priority, we have completed all of the engineering test flights for the software update and are preparing for the final certification flight. We’re committed to providing the FAA and global regulators all the information they need, and to getting it right. We’re making clear and steady progress and are confident that the 737 MAX with updated MCAS software will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly. The accidents have only intensified our commitment to our values, including safety, quality and integrity, because we know lives depend on what we do.”
It sounds like they’re moving in the right direction here, though both Boeing and the FAA have lost so much public trust as this situation has unfolded, so who knows how long it’ll be until the plane is actually flying again (update: the FAA says it could be as early as late June when the plane is back in service).
That’s only the first part of this battle, though. Once the plane is once again certified and put back into service, there are a lot of people who won’t want to fly it. Largely I can’t blame those people, since the same organizations that let the plane enter service in the first place are the ones telling us once again that it’s safe to fly.
It will be interesting to see how airlines handle this. It’s not just a few people who have 737 MAX concerns, but at this point everyone knows about what has happened to the plane. How will airlines deal with those who find themselves booked on a 737 MAX, but aren’t comfortable flying on the plane?