US Supervision Allows “737 Max” to Restart Under Certain Conditions

If the long-shot former Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg had been right, the Boeing 737 Max would have been flying again for a year and a half. The technical changes could be implemented quickly, Muilenburg had repeatedly assured his customers, until at some point the board of directors threw him out. That was just before Christmas 2019.

It then took almost a year before the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was able to lift the flight ban on short- and medium-haul aircraft that had been in force since March 2019. On Wednesday, FAA boss Stephen Dickson gave his consent to bring the machine back into service, provided Boeing and the operators meet all the requirements set by the FAA, including the installation of new control software on the aircraft.

This ends an episode that temporarily destroyed Boeing‘s reputation and has cost the company a double-digit billion amount so far, but which begins with the death of 346 passengers and crew members.

On October 29, 2018, a Lion Air Max crashed shortly after take-off in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, killing 189 people. On March 10, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines Max crashed under similar circumstances near Addis Ababa, killing 157 people. The main cause of the two accidents was the incorrectly designed and inadequately secured software Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which intervenes heavily in the controls in certain flight situations. On both flights, a broken speed sensor probably triggered a chain of events that the pilots could no longer interrupt.

The FAA not only demanded that MCAS be defused and better secured against routine breakdowns, but also better information and training for the pilots. In the end, Boeing also had to agree to courses in the flight simulator, which the company absolutely wanted to avoid for cost reasons. Other authorities such as Transport Canada and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have also analyzed the accidents and in some cases made their own demands. The EASA, for example, had enforced the introduction of a further synthetic sensor in order to be able to compare possibly different values ​​of the two existing ones.

Either way, it will be weeks before the first Max are carrying passengers again. American Airlines has announced that it will initially use the planes from New York to Florida at the end of December; practically all other airlines will not follow until 2021. Boeing had delivered around 380 machines before the flight ban, which the operators can now reactivate. In addition, there are around 400 jets that were built between March 2019 and the beginning of 2020, when Boeing temporarily stopped production. Of the 400, around 200 are expected to be delivered in the coming year, although the airlines currently need nothing less than new aircraft.

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