Upon the completion of the examination on the safety of 737 MAX aircraft, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that there were no obstacles to conduct the flight tests and Boeing authorities took relevant action accordingly.
Boeing 737 MAX aircraft were involved in two fatal accidents that killed 346 people within five months, and the entire fleet has been grounded across the world since March 2019. The flight tests that constitute the most critical step of the certification process required to get the aircraft reunited with the skies again were conducted in Seattle in the last days of June.
Throughout the 3 days of flight tests, the pilots tested flight maneuvers and emergency procedures required for testing whether the modifications on the automatic flight control system fulfilled the standards of FAA certification. In order to test the software update on the MCAS system that had caused both accidents, the pilots, during the flight tests, observed the nose-down behaviors of the airplane depending on the angles of attack.
In its original design, the MCAS was built in a way to pull the nose of the airplane down when the sensors transmit data on high degrees of attack angles, without requiring any intervention of the pilots, for the prevention of aerodynamic stall. In the revised version of the software, the system enables a single nose-down trim and leaves the control to the pilots.
When will the 737 MAX be back in the skies?
Successful flight tests alone do not signal that the 737 MAX airplanes will be up in the skies again. A new process has been launched for the detailed analysis of the data collected during the flight tests and the modifications on the aircraft. The safety experts of the FAA will be approving the airworthiness of the 737 MAX after making sure that the aircraft are fulfilling the certification standards.
During this process, FAA officials will be reviewing the minimum requirements for the training of the pilots and examine the final design documents of the Boeing in evaluation of the aircraft’s compliance with all FAA regulations.
The certificate of airworthiness that reveals all required corrective measures in detail for the operators will be issued for the return of the aircraft to commercial service. Boeing is estimated to have lost over US$ 20 billion due to the 737 MAX crisis.
Boeing stocks rising along with the flight tests
The very idea of 737 MAX flying again has caused excitement in the aviation industry. Boeing stocks rose 14% on the New York Stock Exchange on the day of the first flight test (29 June 2020). The stocks of Spirit AeroSystems, one of the most prominent suppliers of 737 MAX manufacturing many components of the aircraft, the airframes in particular, rose by 17%. Another supplier, Triumph Group’s stocks rose by 18% as well. On the same day, the stock value of the most significant customer of 737 MAX aircraft, Southwest Airlines, also increased by 10%.
FAA administrator to fly with the 737 MAX
The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Stephen M. Dickson is quite cautious about the re-certification of the Boeing 737 MAX. The fact that the aircraft could be re-certified upon a comprehensive and rigorous review process is persistently underlined. The execution of flight tests, fulfilling the training needs of pilots, and revision of all final design documents have been emphasized repeatedly for the re-certification of 737 MAX. Dickson gave his word to operate the airplane in person and stated that first, he must be persuaded to fly the aircraft before lifting the ban. Besides, the pilots will have completed a new training process before the relaunch of the plane.
Stating that all approval processes regarding the 737 MAX were being controlled entirely by the FAA and that this authority has not been transferred to Boeing, Dickson declared that the FAA has been entitled to grant the airworthiness certificates for all new 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the grounding of the aircraft.
Every country to decide on its own
Even though the FAA’s execution of the flight tests for re-certifying the aircraft has been regarded as a step towards the relaunch of the aircraft into operation, the U.S. authority previously commented that “every country will be making its own decision” on putting the 737 MAX aircraft into service again. Within this scope, Canada’s national authority in charge of monitoring air transportation policies and programs, Transport Canada, took action to run its own flight tests on the Boeing 737 MAX.
The tests conducted at Boeing’s facilities in Washington State have been a part of the Canadian authority’s “independent review” on suggestions on the modifications in line with the main framework designed by the FAA which is to be accomplished by Boeing.
This step taken by the Canadian authority has been followed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The European authority started to run its independent tests on the modifications of the Boeing 737 MAX in Vancouver, Canada, on September 7th,2020.
Upon the completion of the EASA’s tests, the officials of the EASA and the authorities in Canada and Brazil will gather and work on the required changes in pilot training for the renewed 737 MAX. Recommendations will be shared with Boeing by the Joint Operations Evaluation Board. This is expected to be conducted with the utilization of simulation applications with the participation of pilots from all related countries.
In addition to the revision of the modifications and the updates to the 737 MAX’s flight safety software, after the revision of pilot training protocols, the FAA is expected to call for the relaunch of the aircraft into service, unless there are new concerns about flight safety.
Despite Boeing’s previous statement announcing the continuation of deliveries in the last quarter of this year, 737 MAX aircraft are not expected to be put into commercial service before 2021.
Many order cancellations!
Despite the execution of the flight tests that are a massive step for the relaunch of the aircraft, the U.S. manufacturer Boeing was hit with a new wave of 737 MAX order cancellations.
As of the week of flight tests run by the FAA, Norway’s low-cost airline Norwegian canceled its order for 92 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with the list price of US$ 5.5 billion and announced that it will be filing a claim for compensation against Boeing for financial damages that occurred during the period where the 737 MAX aircraft were grounded. Not 24 hours after the news, Singapore based chartering company BOC Aviation announced cancellation of their order for 30 737 MAX aircraft adding that it was going to postpone some of the planned deliveries as well. Within the next few days, another chartering company Avolon declared that it canceled the order placed for 27 737 MAX aircraft. Avolon had canceled the order placed for 75 737 MAX during the first quarter of 2020.
The management of flyDubai, which is the second-biggest customer of 737 MAX and Civil Aviation authorities of the UAE are discussing the relaunch of Boeing 737 MAX to service and whether or not they should operate with these aircraft.
First order placed for 737 MAX after 9 months
As U.S. manufacturer company Boeing has been going through difficult times due to cancellations on bulk orders for the 737 MAX, Poland’s greatest charter airline Enter Air made an interesting decision and ordered 2 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The entire fleet of this airline is composed of 737 aircraft, and Enter Air once again proved its loyalty to the Boeing 737 group with its recent two orders, providing relief for Boeing. These two new orders are important as they are the first orders placed for the 737 MAX since November 2019.
The 737 MAX won the title of the quickest sold aircraft and the most sold aircraft throughout Boeing’s history on account of over 500 orders received in a brief amount of time and the total amount of the orders placed for the aircraft as of the end of July 2020 appears to be slightly over 4,000. Customers canceled over 400 orders placed for the 737 MAX in the first seven months of 2020. In that period, the total number of canceled orders of 737 MAX and orders that were shifted to other models reached 864.
Will Boeing rename the 737 MAX?
Boeing management used the name 737-8 for the aircraft while declaring the new orders received from Poland after nine months without a single order. In this way, they publicly announced that they would not be using the name 737 MAX as the aircraft returns to the skies and that they would implement a name change for the aircraft as expected.
As it can be recalled, the idea of changing the name of the aircraft before the relaunch was initially brought up by U.S. President Donald Trump, and was backed by prominent figures in the sector, including Tim Clark - the experienced boss of Emirates. The representatives of the industry and airline owners, agreeing on the difficulty of convincing passengers to fly again with these airplanes, believed in the necessity of developing a new branding strategy in order to overcome this problem. Indeed, campaigns of passenger persuasion will begin only after rendering the aircraft entirely safe for operation