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FAA Recertifies Boeing 737 Max for Flight

Nov. 18, 2020
The longest-ever grounding of a commercial airline has officially come to an end.

The Boeing 737 MAX is preparing for takeoff. Federal Aviation Administrator Steve Dickson signed an order November 18 that rescinded its earlier March 13, 2019 grounding order. Boeing models 737-8 and 737-9 were grounded worldwide after two of the planes, Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, crashed shortly after takeoff due to a software error. The planes were officially grounded for 20 months.

Despite the rescinded grounding order, the FAA said its actions “do not allow the MAX to return immediately to the skies.” The administration says it must approve new training programs for each U.S. airline operating the plane, individually certify all new planes manufactured since the grounding order was issued for airworthiness and export worthiness, and require airlines with parked 737 MAX planes to perform required maintenance tasks before they can return to the skies.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, a pilot, personally flew one of the planes in September for about two hours after taking a revised training course for the plane. In a video statement released November 18, Dickson said he was “100% comfortable” with his family flying on it.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun said in a statement that Boeing would “never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations.” Calhoun, who took the top post at Boeing in January, said that Boeing had increased its focus on its core values, “safety, quality, and integrity.”

Stanl Deal, Boeing’s President of Commercial Airlines, called the new directive a “milestone” and said Boeing would continue to work with regulators to return the plane to the skies. Boeing also said that it had formed a new Product and Services Safety department with more than 50,000 engineers since the accidents in 2018 and 2019.

Throughout the 737’s grounding, Boeing and the FAA have endured bipartisan criticism for the accidents and the process used to certify the plane as flightworthy. Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s CEO during the accidents, was grilled by Congress at a hearing in October before being fired in January.

The deal will allow Boeing to resume deliveries of the plane before the end of the year, likely a welcome boon for the Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer. Boeing’s 2020 income has been crushed by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has led the airliners it normally supplies to tighten their belts by cancelling orders for new planes as the world spurns travel.

Shortly after the company released its fourth-quarter earnings in October, Calhoun said the company would eliminate 30,000 jobs as it buckled down for a travel depression he expected would last years. On November 17, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, the Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act, to reform the FAA’s new aircraft certification process, and on November 18 the Senate’s Commerce Committee voted unanimously on similar legislation.

Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, called the FAA’s certification process a “broken system,” and said he and other members of Congress owed it to the victims to improve the system.

Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) said the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would “help ensure the United States remains the gold standard in aviation safety and maintain our competitiveness in the aerospace sector.”

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