Dickson To Fly MAX Sept. 30

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Perhaps the most important flight in Boeing’s history, symbolically at least, is scheduled for Wednesday as FAA Administrator Steve Dickson straps into the left seat of a Boeing 737 MAX. In November of 2019 Dickson famously made the pledge to wring out the changes to the aircraft software personally. “I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself and am satisfied that I would put my own family on it without a second thought,” he said at the time. The flight signals that the FAA is getting ready to allow the aircraft to return to flight for the first time since March of 2019 when the second of two fatal crashes involving the MAX’s flight control system occurred in Ethiopia.

This is no photo op for Dickson. Before releasing the brakes, he will undergo the full training package Boeing is proposing existing 737 pilots take before flying the latest model. Dickson flew 737NG models for Delta before he joined the executive ranks. The training and flight will take place in Seattle. The primary focus will be on the behavior of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System that was identified as the source of the control problems that resulted in the Ethiopian crash and an earlier one in Indonesia, which killed a total of 346 people.

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17 COMMENTS

    • That would be the proper thing to do, and what should have been done in the first place. But Boeing has shown time and time again that quarterly profits take precedence over public safety now. They wanted that plane out in the market as fast as possible, and they were going to fight anything that might delay that – which a new type cert certainly entailed.

  1. I hope he flies it more than once, and not just around the block, the runway, or the lake.
    I hope he takes it up to 37,000 ft. (7 miles; 11.2 km), turns off all but one of the engines,
    then deliberately flies at or near stall speed. I hope he tests the plane, and its limits, as
    he would with an F-15, which he flew regularly when he was in the Air Force. I hope that
    when he puts his family on the plane, they don’t just sit on the ground, inspect the kitchen
    and the lavatory, and then exit the aircraft and reboard the limo. And I hope both he and
    the 737 get back in one piece–not just once, but every time, a thousand and one times.
    Then he can go ahead and certify it–but not a minute earlier.

  2. For all of the people out there that declare (in perfect 20/20 hindsight) that “The 737 Max should have had a new type certificate’–they aren’t well versed in airline operations or FAA certification.

    The FAA requires a type rating. Pilots can be rated to fly evolutionary changes to a specific type, as long as they receive “differences” training. The 737 has evolved over 50 years through each of the models–from a stubby short-haul aircraft with fuel-thirsty engines to an efficient long haul high capacity airliner with sophisticated avionics. This isn’t unique to Boeing–the very same type rating applies to the original DC-9 (primitive avionics and engines–no leading edge lift devices, and about half the weight of the last models). It has applied to the DC-8–low-powered smoke generating jets, short range, and about half the passenger capacity as the last models. Throughout, the FAA has allowed airlines and pilots to train for the differences–something that has worked since the advent of the jetliner.

    To meet the FAA standards for evolution of the airplane and maintain the common type rating, the FAA has to ascertain that the flight characteristics are essentially the same–and the airlines can train for the differences. This is especially important to airlines that operate only a specific model (like the 737)–Southwest and Alaska being good examples. Their record for operating a variety of different iterations of the 737 is very good.

    HAD THE FAA allowed changes to the landing gear/airframe to accommodate the larger fuel efficient engines, MCAS would not have been needed. IF the FAA had said no to MCAS, Boeing would have had to certify a different airliner–at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars–and a further cost to airlines of additional hundreds of millions of dollars for training, spares, fleet replacement, ground support equipment, etc. As long as the pilots were well-trained, MCAS WORKS. Every jet pilot knows the drill for “runaway trim” and the procedure for coping with it–it is on every check ride I’ve ever taken. There was no problem with MCAS runaway handling on any US airline–both MAX crashes involved relatively low-time pilots that did exactly what pilots are taught NOT to do (fight the trim).

    Mistakes WERE made. Boeing should not have allowed airlines the option of a single AOA (especially after the Airbus AOA failure over the south Atlantic). Though MCAS is “invisible” to the pilots, Boeing (and the FAA) should have required differences training on the MAX. Bottom line–this is not a HARDWARE problem–it is a REGULATORY problem–if the FAA certifies this a common type rating, then the DIFFERENCES must be listed, taught, and become part of recurrent training. I see a lot of criticism hurled at Boeing–but Boeing built the MAX to comply with FAA certification rules.

  3. I for one am not giving Boeing any due to the 2 accidents but as I consider the comparison to the 737 Max situation it doesn’t quite seems fair (if fair is to be considered). I am saying right up front that especially since it was a corporate decision to get this airplane signed off in a hurry and sadly find that it has killed all those passengers I find that truly disgusting.

    As a side note I actually flew in a 737MAX to Reno and back with South West Airlines and found it a wonderful machine. It was fast, with a bright interior, and comfortable too. I actually enjoyed the flight, both ways, to and from my destination.

    The point to this blog is to once again make people aware of the 737 MAX comparable and its history:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Accidents_and_incidents_involving_the_Airbus_A320

    What is there to add? Wow, what a history here folks!

    I flew in a A-320 a few times, and found it to be everything the 737MAX isn’t…uncomfortable, slow, dark and the ones I was in near the end of its useful life.

    So I’ll end by saying, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going!

  4. It’s a consumate stunt and Boeing knows it but needs a fall guy to certify it.
    What can one test flight with a barely current pilot achieve?
    It s the same slap-dash approach from Boeing – and the FAA – that caused the accidents in the first place.
    Net net, the 737 MAX airframe is too small for its engines. Engines too big, so out of envelope CoG papered over with MCAS.
    This dodgy stuff in Engineering is from the same DNA that caused Boeings current financial meltdown and disgraceful Fed bailout – a totally morally bankrupt C-suite.
    Scrap it and spend the money on a completely new Type.
    One more crash and that will happen anyway.
    As an aside;
    Here’s a list of Boeing 737 accidents.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incidents_involving_the_Boeing_737.

  5. And here is a similar list of Airbus 319/320 accidents. There are 160 of them–on a design that is not nearly as old as the 737. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incidents_involving_the_Airbus_A320_family

    Where is the outrage against Airbus?

    I find it interesting that people blame Boeing for using an FAA-approved device to meet FAA conformity standards. Boeing responded by installing an electronic measuring device to make the airplane fly more like the older Boeings that pilots were used to. They made a second MCAS available, but many airlines didn’t buy the second unit.

    Pilots tend to fall into two groups of thought–those that WANT electronics between themselves and the airframe, (electronic “Law”) d and those that do not. With the introduction of the Airbus, younger pilots tended to bid “The Bus”, while older pilots adopted the “If it ain’t Boeing, I’m not going!” and were glad to have the younger pilots “Take the Bus.” The older pilots didn’t want the airplane doing something uncommanded. The 737 had a good record without the electronic “corrections”. The Airbus, with the “electronic Law” installed, is no better.

    We hear the hue and cry about the “defective” electronics in the MAX–yet where is the public outrage against the Airbus, which has electronics in even GREATER control? I, for one, would rather have the tactile feedback of the controls in the Boeing (but if I was flying a MAX, I’d want my airline to have the optional second MCAS system installed).