WASHINGTON: Boeing has conducted a final test flight of a 737 Max model with an updated anti-stall system prior to its certification by aviation authorities, the aerospace manufacturer said Wednesday.
CEO Dennis Muilenberg tweeted a video where he said the test flight was carried out on Tuesday, adding that test pilots have completed 120 flights totalling more than 203 hours of airtime with the software fix for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
Investigators have zeroed in on the system as a factor behind the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes in October and in March respectively, killing nearly 350 people in total.
In both cases, the planes nose-dived shortly after takeoff, signaling a problem in a system that was deployed to correct for an aerodynamic issue that tended to cause the plane’s nose to pitch up.
“More than 85 percent of the 50-plus Max operators around the globe also have had the opportunity to see the update in action during simulator sessions,” added Muilenberg.
All 737 Max aircraft have been banned from the world’s skies since days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10.
During the next-step certification flight, Federal Aviation Administration crews will join Boeing pilots in the air to evaluate the new MCAS software and determine whether it addresses problems around the nose of the aircraft being forced down during flight.
FAA certification is necessary for the 737 Max to fly passengers again, and there’s no telling how long that could take. The agency itself is under scrutiny for a cosy relationship with Boeing when the Max was originally certified. So the FAA has extra hurdles to leap before it can satisfy airlines and governments outside the United States that the plane is safe.
Though aviation safety agencies in other countries have typically followed the FAA’s lead in certification matters, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday that Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau disagrees with an FAA report that Max pilots wouldn’t need additional simulator training to learn the updated Max software. Air Canada is one of the largest Max customers, with 24 aircraft in its fleet and an additional 77 on order.