As expected, the 737 MAX 7, registration N7201S, took off from Boeing Field in Seattle at 9:55 am on Monday for the first of several certification flights to be conducted in the next few days alongside the FAA, the US civil aviation authority.

The test aircraft, one of the prototypes used by Boeing in its original certification campaign, remained in the air for just over two hours until it landed at Moses Lake Airport, where airframer maintains a testing facility. Just over an hour later, at 12:15 pm (local time), the jet had returned to take off with no destination informed on its ADS-B.

Boeing, however, has yet to comment on the start of certification flights. On Friday, the company made two very similar flights with the same aircraft, which is equipped with various instruments and sensors to record the operation of the modifications introduced in the 737 MAX after the accidents that killed 346 people.

Over 800 grounded planes

Despite the good news, the FAA noted that the 737 MAX will only be allowed to fly again when Boeing can prove that the jet meets certification standards. “While the certification flights are an important milestone, a number of key tasks remain. The FAA is following a deliberate process and will take the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing’s work,” the agency explained.

Since it was banned from flying in March 2019, the 737 MAX has accumulated new units completed with hundreds more that had been delivered and are stored. It is estimated that at least 800 planes are grounded and that number is expected to rise as Boeing has resumed production at a very slow rate.