Even the boss himself got behind the wheel. Steve Dickson, head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is a veteran pilot. And so at the end of September he insisted on piloting a Boeing 737 Max himself for two hours. As a result of two crashes with a total of 346 fatalities, the plane has been grounded for more than 600 days. Boeing must make improvements in technology, pilot training and documentation. And the job of Dickson’s agency is to find the answer to a fundamental question: When will the 737 Max be safe enough to fly again?
The head of the FAA has now told the news agency Reuters that the proceedings will be “concluded in the coming days”. Before that, his agency must be convinced that Boeing has tackled the safety issues surrounding the crashes. In recent months there have been several test flights, among other things, and the focus of attention is the MCAS stabilization system. It is designed to prevent a dangerous stall if the pilots inadvertently pull the nose of the aircraft too far up. However, faulty sensors can make the device a deadly trap. In this case, it may want to correct problematic flight situations that do not actually exist – and thereby cause a crash.
At the heart of the problem was that the MCAS system only obtained its information from one of the two angle of attack sensors on the aircraft. If it was faulty, there were massive problems. Now the system is supposed to use the data from both sensors. In addition, it should also be prevented that pilots can no longer counteract manually. In addition, the training for pilots was adapted. The safety level achieved is high enough for us “Reuters reports, citing three unnamed sources, that the 737 Max could be re-certified by 18 November. There is no official confirmation, Boeing also did not want to comment on the report, according to the news agency.
In addition to the FAA, other aviation authorities must also permit the re-certification of the 737 Max in their own procedures. The European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) in Cologne is responsible for Europe. Its experts have also conducted their own test flights in Canada. Following the test flights, Easa boss Patrick Ky was positive about the safety level of the aircraft after the retrofit: “Our analysis shows that it is safe. The safety level achieved is high enough for us”, explains Easa in response to an inquiry from SPIEGEL, who are currently working on a proposal for the 737 Max. It is expected to be published in November. Then interested parties will have the opportunity to submit comments for 28 days. Only after they have reviewed them will the final directive be published. This should be the case towards the end of the year or in early 2021. But even then, according to the Easa, the 737 Max will not return to the skies over Europe from one day to the next. Among other things, the airlines would have to ensure that their pilots had received the prescribed training and that the necessary maintenance work had been carried out after the long flight ban.
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