After being grounded for 20 months following two deadly crashes in 2019 that killed 346 people, the Boeing 737 Max is returning to the skies after being cleared by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson yesterday signed an order (PDF) that paves the way for the Boeing 737 MAX to return to commercial service. Administrator Dickson’s action followed a comprehensive and methodical safety review process(PDF) that took 20 months to complete. During that time, FAA employees worked diligently to identify and address the safety issues that played a role in the tragic loss of 346 lives aboard Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Throughout this process, the FAA cooperated closely with foreign counterparts on every aspect of the return to service. Additionally, Administrator Dickson personally took the recommended pilot training and piloted the Boeing 737 MAX, so he could experience the handling of the aircraft firsthand.
In addition to rescinding the order that grounded the aircraft, the FAA today published an Airworthiness Directive (PDF)specifying design changes that must be made before the aircraft returns to service, issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) (PDF), and published the MAX training requirements. (PDF) These actions do not allow the MAX to return immediately to the skies. The FAA must approve 737 MAX pilot training program revisions for each U.S. airline operating the MAX and will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all new 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the FAA issued the grounding order. Furthermore, airlines that have parked their MAX aircraft must take required maintenance steps to prepare them to fly again.
“The FAA’s directive is an important milestone,” said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.”
In addition to changes made to the airplane and pilot training, Boeing has taken three important steps to strengthen its focus on safety and quality.
- Organizational Alignment: More than 50,000 engineers have been brought together in a single organization that includes a new Product & Services Safety unit, unifying safety responsibilities across the company.
- Cultural Focus: Engineers have been further empowered to improve safety and quality. The company is identifying, diagnosing and resolving issues with a higher level of transparency and immediacy.
- Process Enhancements: By adopting next-generation design processes, the company is enabling greater levels of first-time quality.