FAA Administrator Steve Dickson piloted a Boeing 737 MAX on a two-hour flight out of Seattle, Washington, on Wednesday. Prior to the flight, Dickson, a former Delta pilot with experience in aircraft including the Boeing 727, 737, 757 and 767, also completed new recommended pilot training for the model, which has been grounded since March 2019 following the fatal crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 on Oct. 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019. Dickson emphasized that Wednesday’s flight was separate from the FAA’s ongoing official recertification process.
“Shortly after I took the helm at the FAA, I made a promise that I would fly the 737 MAX and that I wouldn’t sign off on its return to service until I was comfortable putting my family on it,” Dickson said. “I took the same training that the Joint Operations Evaluation Board looked at during its work at London Gatwick Airport in recent days. This was followed by a session in the 737 MAX simulator, during which I had the opportunity to experience a variety of problems that presented the relevant emergencies that might occur. Today, I flew a similar flight profile in the airplane.”
Before the MAX can return to service, the FAA’s Flight Standardization Board (FSB) still needs to incorporate the results of a Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) evaluation of the proposed training for MAX flight crews into a draft report, which will be posted for public comment. Once those comments have been reviewed and addressed, a final FSB report will be published. The FAA and a multi-agency Technical Advisory Board (TAB) also need to review Boeing’s final design documentation and determine compliance with all FAA regulations. Once that work has been completed, the FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC), publish an Airworthiness Directive (AD) and rescind the grounding order.
The FAA emphasized that it will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates for all 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the model was grounded. In addition, the agency reiterated that it intends to perform in-person, individual reviews of new MAXes. The FAA also says it plans to review and approve MAX training programs for all Part 121 operators.