FAA clears Boeing's 737 Max for take-off

The company's most popular jet has been grounded since March last year

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration Chief Steve Dickson, prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle. The FAA is poised to clear the Boeing 737 Max to fly again after grounding the jets for nearly two years due to a pair of disastrous crashes that killed 346 people. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The US Federal Aviation Administration approved Boeing's 737 Max to recommence flying after two deadly crashes led to the grounding of the jet.

The Max, the company's best-selling jet, has been grounded since March last year after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. Airlines under the FAA's jurisdiction can now take the necessary steps to resume operating the 737 Max and Boeing can recommence deliveries, the company said in a statement. Boeing's share price jumped more than 5 per cent in pre-market trading on the announcement.

“We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations,” said David Calhoun, chief executive officer of The Boeing Company. “These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity.”

The grounding of the Max has led to heightened scrutiny of the Chicago-based plane maker by regulators and the replacement of its chairman and chief executive. It has also cost the company about $20bn.

Boeing, which has also faced postponement and cancellation of airline deliveries from customers whose businesses have been upended by the Covid-19 pandemic, recorded a net loss of $3.5bn for the first nine months of the year, as revenue dropped by 27 per cent.

Boeing said it has been working with airlines for the past 20 months and providing them with detailed recommendations on long-term storage of the planes.

In addition to making changes to the aircraft, most notably its Manoeuvering Characteristics Augmentation System and retraining pilots, the company said it has taken major steps to improve its focus on safety and quality. These have included bringing more than 50,000 engineers together under a single organisation and giving them a greater say over safety matters, improving transparency and making enhancements to its design processes, the statement said.

“The FAA’s directive is an important milestone,” Stan Deal, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said.

“We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.”

The 737 Max's return to the skies is likely to be gradual, with individual airlines also needing to retrain pilots. Regulators in Europe and other parts of the world will also need to carry out their own certification.

In the UAE, where flydubai is Boeing's second-biggest customer for the 737 Max after Southwest Airlines in the US, the General Civil Aviation Authority said in September that it was continuing to work with the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing for the jet's safe return to the skies.

Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director-general of GCAA, said “a dedicated specialist team has been formed by the GCAA to monitor" the measures taken to fix the plane and the FAA's certification .

“The specialist team is also working with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to benefit from their approach in safely returning the aircraft to service,” he added.