Pilots and test crew members from the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing Co (BA.N) are slated to begin a three-day certification test campaign for the 737 MAX on Monday, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The test is a pivotal moment in Boeing’s worst-ever corporate crisis, long since compounded by the novel coronavirus pandemic that has slashed air travel and jet demand.
The grounding of the fast-selling 737 MAX in March 2019 after two crashes in five months killed 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia triggered lawsuits, investigations by Congress and the Department of Justice and cut off a key source of Boeing’s cash.
The FAA confirmed to U.S. lawmakers on Sunday that an agency board had completed a review of Boeing’s safety system assessment for the 737 MAX “clearing the way for flight certification testing to begin. Flights with FAA test pilots could begin as early as tomorrow, evaluating Boeing’s proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the 737 MAX.”
After a preflight briefing over several hours, the crew will board a 737 MAX 7 outfitted with test equipment at Boeing Field near Seattle, one of the people said.
The crew will run methodically scripted mid-air scenarios such as steep-banking turns, progressing to more extreme maneuvers on a route primarily over Washington state. The plan over at least three days could include touch-and-go landings at the eastern Washington airport in Moses Lake, and a path over the Pacific Ocean coastline, adjusting the flight plan and timing as needed for weather and other factors, one of the people said.