Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

FAA chief not ready to certify 737 Max after two-hour test flight

Two fatal accidents led to Boeing's worst crisis and strained its relationship with regulatory body

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Chief Steve Dickson pilots a Boeing 737 Max aircraft on takeoff of an evaluation flight from Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, US September 30, 2020. Pool via REUTERS.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Chief Steve Dickson pilots a Boeing 737 Max aircraft on takeoff of an evaluation flight from Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, US September 30, 2020. Pool via REUTERS.

The chief of the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday said he would not allow Boeing’s troubled 737 Max plane to return to the skies, after piloting a two-hour evaluation flight.

Steve Dickson, a former military and commercial pilot, and other FAA and Boeing pilots landed just before 11am local time at King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field, in Seattle.

The FAA said Mr Dickson sat in the captain’s seat during the flight, which took off with Boeing pilots also on board.

"I like what I saw on the flight," he said afterwards, but he was not ready to give the jet approval with FAA reviews still continuing.

"We are not to the point yet where we have completed the process.".

Mr Dickson said the FAA was “in the home stretch” of its review of the plane.

He also said he had completed the revised pilot training protocols and a session in a flight simulator.

The flight was a key part of Boeing’s quest to persuade the FAA to lift a March 2019 grounding order imposed after 737 Max crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, which killed 346 people in five months.

Both times, an automated anti-stall system pushed the nose of the plane down after faulty readings from sensors.

Boeing hopes to win FAA approval this year for changes it has made to flight-control software and computers.

The accidents let to Boeing's worst crisis, strained its relationship with the FAA, put in question the US regulator's position as the standard-bearer for global aviation safety and led to calls in Congress to overhaul how the authority certifies new planes.

"The FAA, and I in particular, will not approve the plane for return to passenger service until I'm satisfied that we've adequately addressed all of the known safety issues that played a role in the tragic loss of 346 lives aboard Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302," Mr Dickson said.

"Not a day goes by that I and my colleagues don't think about the victims and their families."

Updated: October 1, 2020 04:48 AM

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