US FAA clears Boeing 737 Max to resume flying again
Boeing 737 MaxPhoto: Boeing

US FAA clears Boeing 737 Max to resume flying again

Washington, November 18, 2020

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today cleared aerospace major Boeing's 737 Max aircraft to return to commercial service, nearly two years after it was grounded after two fatal crashes.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed the order today following a comprehensive and methodical safety review process (PDF) that took 20 months to complete, a statement from the regulator said.

"During that time, FAA employees worked diligently to identify and address the safety issues that played a role in the tragic loss of 346 lives aboard Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

"Throughout our transparent process, we cooperated closely with our foreign counterparts on every aspect of the return to service. Additionally, Administrator Dickson personally took the recommended pilot training and piloted the Boeing 737 MAX, so he could experience the handling of the aircraft firsthand," it said.

In addition to rescinding the order that grounded the aircraft, the FAA today published an Airworthiness Directive specifying design changes that must be made before the aircraft returns to service, issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC), and published the MAX training requirements.

"These actions do not allow the MAX to return immediately to the skies. The FAA must approve 737 MAX pilot training program revisions for each U.S. airline operating the MAX and will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all new 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the FAA issued the grounding order. Furthermore, airlines that have parked their MAX aircraft must take required maintenance steps to prepare them to fly again.

"The design and certification of this aircraft included an unprecedented level of collaborative and independent reviews by aviation authorities around the world. Those regulators have indicated that Boeing’s design changes, together with the changes to crew procedures and training enhancements, will give them the confidence to validate the aircraft as safe to fly in their respective countries and regions.

"Following the return to service, the FAA will continue to work closely with our foreign civil aviation partners to evaluate any potential additional enhancements for the aircraft. The agency also will conduct the same rigorous, continued operational safety oversight of the MAX that we provide for the entire U.S. commercial fleet," the statement added.

Responding to the FAA order, Boeing said in a statement that the move would allow airlines that are under the FAA's jurisdiction, including those in the U.S., to take the steps necessary to resume service and Boeing to begin making deliveries.

"We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations," said David Calhoun, chief executive officer of The Boeing Company. "These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity."

The statement said that, throughout the past 20 months, Boeing has worked closely with airlines, providing them with detailed recommendations regarding long-term storage and ensuring their input was part of the effort to safely return the airplanes to service.

An Airworthiness Directive issued by the FAA spells out the requirements that must be met before U.S. carriers can resume service, including installing software enhancements, completing wire separation modifications, conducting pilot training and accomplishing thorough de-preservation activities that will ensure the airplanes are ready for service.

"The FAA's directive is an important milestone," said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide."

The statement said that, in addition to changes made to the airplane and pilot training, Boeing has taken three important steps to strengthen its focus on safety and quality. These are:

Organizational Alignment: More than 50,000 engineers have been brought together in a single organization that includes a new Product & Services Safety unit, unifying safety responsibilities across the company.

Cultural Focus: Engineers have been further empowered to improve safety and quality. The company is identifying, diagnosing and resolving issues with a higher level of transparency and immediacy.

Process Enhancements: By adopting next-generation design processes, the company is enabling greater levels of first-time quality.

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