Safety tests that could potentially see the international recertification of Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX are due to begin this week, according to sources close to the matter.
Pilots and crews from the U.S Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in conjunction with technical experts from Boeing, are due to undertake the tests over a number of days, potentially starting as of Monday.
The tests will likely be the first of many over coming months, in addition to those already conducted privately by Boeing over the last year, as public opinion of the 737 MAX remains dubious.
The Boeing 737 MAX was grounded around the world last year, following two fatal crashes – one being Lion Air flight 610, and the other Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which both occurred within five months of each other.
Combined, the crashes resulted in the death of 346 people, everyone on board both planes, raising concerns over the type’s new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which investigators stated appeared to be at the heart of both accidents.
Claims have also been made that pilots were not appropriately trained under the new MCAS system under the relevant type rating training, and prior to flying the 737 MAX.
The investigations saw Boeing under threat, as the families of the crash victims sparked lawsuits against the company, and questions were raised over the initial safety approval process in conjunction with the FAA.
According to sources, a Boeing 737 MAX loaded with ‘test equipment’ is set to run through a series of mid-air scenarios near Boeing’s manufacturing base at Seattle and throughout Washington state, including over the Pacific Ocean and Moses Lake.
Further, pilots involved in the tests will be required to intentionally trigger the reprogrammed stall-prevention software known as MCAS, which has been publicly blamed for both crashes.
Following the tests, the FAA will determine whether or not the 737 MAX is fit for recertification, a process which reportedly could take a number of months.
Test flights on the type have been planned since the planes were grounded last October, however ongoing investigations into the crashes and the resulting safety issues uncovered have delayed the 737 MAX’s return to service.
In response to the upcoming tests, the European Aviation Safety Agency has maintained its stance that the clearance for the type to return to the skies by the FAA will not automatically mean a clearance will be granted in Europe.