The move marks an important step in the certification process for the 737 Max, which has been in place since March 2019, for passenger flights.
Boeing said it expects full approval for the plane to fly passengers by the middle of this year. The FAA said in a letter to Congress on Sunday that it had not yet set a date for the lifting.
“Flights with FAA test pilots could begin as early as tomorrow, assessing Boeing’s proposed changes to the automated flight control system at the 737 MAX,” the administration wrote in a letter to lawmakers, received by CNN. “The test is expected to take several days and will include a wide range of flight maneuvers and emergency procedures to allow the body to assess whether the changes meet FAA certification standards.”
Boeing partnered with the FAA to take back the 737 Max after two crashes that killed 346 people. The company initially hopes the plane will fly again before the end of 2019, but the effort has hit a number of roadblocks, including a new software issue that was discovered in February.
“Boeing continues to work diligently to support the safe return of the 737 Max to the commercial service. We are postponing FAA and global regulators on the process,” Boeing told CNN on Sunday.
The problems with the 737 Max have so far cost $ 18.7 billion Boeing and that number is likely to continue to rise.
The company temporarily stopped production of the 737 Max in January, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit most airlines in the world. He couldn’t keep building the Max without being able to deliver the planes and complete the jet sales.
Boeing resumed production of the aircraft in May, but airlines have moved to cancel or delay the delivery of new jet aircraft in view of the Covid-19 crisis, forcing Boeing to significantly reduce its production plans for at least the next few years. years.
The aircraft cannot return to service until it has received final approval from the FAA.
The FAA’s letter to Congress stated that the launch of test flights did not mean that the agency had “completed the compliance assessment or other work related to the return to service”. The agency described in the letter the steps that will be taken in the liquidation process after the test flights, which include the evaluation of the minimum pilot training requirements, among other procedures.
– CNN’s Greg Wallace, Rebekah Riess and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.