FAA Completes MAX Certification Flights


The FAA and Boeing have completed the certification flight tests for the grounded Boeing 737 MAX. According to the FAA, the tests were aimed at evaluating “Boeing’s proposed changes in connection with the automated flight control system on the aircraft.” The test flights occurred over three days with the first series performed on Monday.

“While completion of the flights is an important milestone, a number of key tasks remain, including evaluating the data gathered during these flights,” the FAA said in a statement. “The agency is following a deliberate process and will take the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing’s work. We will lift the grounding order only after FAA safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards.”

Remaining recertification tasks include an evaluation of minimum pilot training requirements by the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) and the FAA’s Flight Standardization Board (FSB)—which will be issued as a draft report and open for public comment—followed by a final FSB report after public comments have been reviewed and addressed. In addition, the FAA and the multi-agency Technical Advisory Board (TAB) still need to review Boeing’s final design documentation and determine compliance with all FAA regulations. Following those steps, 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 reiterated that it will retain authority to issue airworthiness and export certificates for all 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the model was grounded in March 2019, along with performing “in-person, individual reviews” of those aircraft.

Video: FAA
Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. I watched the video. Can anyone explain to me why pilots of pressurized planes cannot have a well trimmed beard, according to most FAA inspectors, and yet both pilots are wearing masks while flying? What’s the difference? How is that safe in the event of a depressurization?

      • 2 seconds is a long time when your time of useful consciousness in the 40s is around 15 seconds. The mask in every jet I have flown say beards will not seal.

    • In addition to what Joe said, you can also breath through the sort of masks people wear for Covid — they’re designed to prevent droplets from your breath, speech, and coughs/sneezes from spreading, not to filter your breath. So even if you had to don an oxygen mask and you put it OVER the other mask, you’d be fine. But the more logical response would be to remove the Covid mask before donning the oxygen mask or cannula. 2 seconds at the most.

      I don’t know anything about the “no beard” requirement, that seems like overkill. An oxygen mask doesn’t have to seal perfectly to your face in order to feed you oxygen, though I guess you might “waste” some oxygen and maybe reduce the length of time oxygen would be available with a mask that didn’t seal because of facial hair. I wonder if there are studies on this or if it’s just an urban legend.

    • Not an FAA thing. No rules against beards. Airlines and corporate departments have grooming standards, not the FAA. I’ve been donning masks in the sim for going on 40 years and occasionally on long haul flights when boredom sets in. Taking my glasses off and then trying to make them usable again inside the very tight fitting pneumatic straps is a lot bigger issue than anything else…

      • I am well aware there is no FAA rule on beards. I did fly for one company where the owner had a beard and handlebar mustache, so I had a beard also. Unfortunately there are still FAA POI’s who like to make up their own rules. Drilling use of O2 masks in sim is one thing, if decompression is rapid or explosive there is a lot more happening that can only be simulated in a chamber.

        As far as the recertification of the MAX, it is beginning to sound like the FAA is dragging their feet on this.

  2. Thank you Kate for your well written informative piece about the FAA’s completion of Max Certification flights and the work which remains. The number and complexity of tasks remaining sound substantial.

    I’ll wager you didn’t expect someone’s favorite high horse subject to highjack your good work right out of the comment gate.

  3. So be it with the COVID masks and O2 masks.. What about the flight test, and the focus on the stall augment system.. As well as putting a time line as to when Boeing can start putting their 737 MAX orders back together.. They looked straight and level to me.. Is that it, “Stall Augment “ didn’t accidentally activate.. Check..!!

  4. Right on Tom O (above)
    From what was printed in the article, approval from JOEB, FSB, TAB, & CANIC , & maybe others must be met before recertification.
    So, just how long will all this take? ha – don’t hold your breath.

  5. Me again.
    To again make my previous issue comment about the Max, was, The original certification flight tests were approved, so, if no problem occurs on subsequent tests, then everything is OK – right? Hummm

  6. There Is an Acronym Quiz coming….
    Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)
    Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB)
    Flight Standardization Board (FSB)
    Technical Advisory Board (TAB)
    Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC)
    Airworthiness Directive (AD)
    Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA)
    Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR)
    National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
    Portable Document Format (PDF)
    Certificate Management Office (CMO)
    Speed Trim System (STS)
    United States – Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
    Australia – Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
    Brazil – Agencia Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC)
    Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA)
    Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC)
    European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
    Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB)
    Indonesia – Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
    Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)
    United Arab Emirates – General Civil Aviation Authority (UAE GCAA)
    COrona VIrus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    Bonus Question: 737 ??? (MAX)

  7. I hope this re-certification process does not follow the usual response when a check engine light comes on the American Family Truckster, gets reset, and then followed with ” could not duplicate problem”.

    At least there will be Klause M’s list of acronym/alphabet groups to satisfy besides the FAA. I wonder if FAA Steve will be test aggressive when he gets the MAX controls?