by Matt Turner Nov 18, 2020
Boeing’s 737 Max may soon be taking to the skies with passengers, as the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) on Wednesday cleared carriers to seek the proper certifications for the aircraft before returning to service. Following two deadly crashes—in March 2019 by Ethiopian Airlines and in October 2018 by Indonesia’s Lion Air—the 737 Max aircraft were grounded worldwide. In total, all 346 people onboard the flights were killed.
Steve Dickson, administrator of the F.A.A., rescinded its Emergency Order of Probation, which was issued on March 13, 2019, on Boeing 737-8 and 737-9 airplanes. This means, Boeing is now able to operate its aircraft after passing set requirements. In the order, the Dickson said, “The F.A.A. determined that the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents involved a common cause, identified an unsafe condition that existed in the product and was likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design, and began proceedings to address the unsafe condition.”
The New York Times reports that investigators found the problems to relate to engineering flaws, mismanagement and a lack of federal oversight. The root of the problems was MCAS, a software that was designed to automatically push the plane’s nose down in certain situations. This has been named as the cause for both crashes.
The F.A.A. determined that Boeing’s changes to MCAS, flight crew training and the jet’s design “effectively mitigate” its safety concerns. Dickson himself flew the aircraft in September and approved of the updates.
The F.A.A. has issued an Airworthiness Directive and Boeing must now seek the proper certificates to meet these requirements. The Emergency Order of Prohibition will no longer apply to any Boeing 737 Max that receive the F.A.A. airworthiness certificates based on the amended type designs. Foreign carriers do not have to seek the certificates but the F.A.A. notes they will be restricted from U.S. airspace—although it’s expected that other regulators around the world will follow suit.
In addition, before returning Boeing 737-8 and 737-9 airplanes to service, operators must also meet all other applicable requirements, such as completing new training for pilots and conducting maintenance activity. It will still likely be months before the aircraft return to services as all of the updates, trainings and more are met by the various carriers.