After many months of preparations, Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are due to begin a three-day test flight campaign with the 737 MAX on Monday, according Reuters.
Certification flights are considered the inflexion point in the crisis facing Boeing’s most popular aircraft, banned from flying since March 2019 after two accidents that killed 346 people.
After a pre-flight briefing lasting several hours, the crew should board the 737 MAX 7 model, the smallest in the family, which is equipped with several sensors and computers to assess the flight.
The flight must perform maneuvers that repeat risky scenarios such as sharp curves and climbs, and landings at airports close to Boeing. It is also foreseen to activate the MCAS, software that should relieve the pilots’ effort in pronounced angles of attack, but which presented problems in both accidents.
The goal of the US civil aviation authority is to prove that the modifications to the aircraft are sufficiently safe to prevent the same behavior seen in the two jets, which showed vibration on the control sticks, for example.
For months, Boeing has accumulated hundreds of hours on flight simulators in addition to flights with the same 737 MAX 7 that will be used this week. With the data collected, the FAA will then analyze the results and then determine whether the aircraft is safe and the new training protocols are sufficient to prepare pilots flying on the jet.
FAA director Steve Dickson, a former F-15 Eagle pilot, is expected to fly a 737 MAX before declaring it ready to return to commercial service.
The end of the Boeing nightmare, however, will still take a few months, possibly until September. The next step is to prepare hundreds of pilots worldwide for the changes implemented in the 737 MAX. As long as the FAA is satisfied with Boeing’s work and other civil aviation authorities do not request extra modifications to the aircraft.