The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft could make its first test flight from Monday, a crucial step for the survival of the company’s flagship model which has been grounded for 14 months.
On Friday, two sources familiar with the matter told AFP that the theft could take place earlier this week.
Neither Boeing nor the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the flight when asked for comment on Sunday.
“We are continuing to work diligently to return the 737 MAX to service safely. We defer to the FAA and global regulators on the process,” a Boeing spokesperson told AFP.
The MAX has been anchored in the world since March 13, 2019, following an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people. This disaster occurred just months after the Lion Air MAX crash that left 189 people dead.
The disturbing similarities between the two accidents, which occurred shortly after takeoff, as well as the pilots’ inability to regain control of the aircraft, led world aviation authorities to anchor the model indefinitely.
For months, the American aviation giant has struggled to return to service its medium-haul aircraft – whose sales were its main source of income before the grounding.
The model’s anti-stall flight system, MCAS, was partly responsible for the two accidents. But other technical malfunctions, including one involving electrical wiring, were subsequently detected during the aircraft modification process, slowing down its recertification.
For weeks, Boeing has been waiting for the green light from the authorities to conduct test flights to prove that the modifications provide maximum safety.
Civil aviation authorities can only approve the modified model after examining its flight performance. They will also examine the thousands of data points collected during the flights.
For this reason, three days of test flights have been scheduled, according to the New York Times.
They will take off from Boeing Field, just outside Seattle, the manufacturer’s birthplace in Washington State, in the northwest of the United States.
The weather is difficult to predict, but forecasts indicate that Monday will be partly cloudy, with little wind and 10 percent chance of rain.
According to the Times, an FAA pilot will be at the controls to test the modifications to the plane, and a Boeing test pilot will also be on board.
In general, test flights are meticulously prepared.
Delay after delay
A few months ago, Boeing predicted that the MAX would return to service in mid-2020, around June.
But the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in travel restrictions and lockouts to try to slow its spread, has turned the calendar upside down.
According to the Seattle Times, European and Canadian aeronautical authorities have demanded further substantial changes to the aircraft’s flight control system.
The two regulators, as well as the FAA “have agreed that Boeing will be required to make these additional design changes … only after the MAX is returned to service,” the newspaper reported.
Asked by AFP for more details, a spokesman for Boeing said Friday that safety was the company’s top priority.
The spokesman also said that Boeing was committed to answering questions from regulators and meeting all regulatory and certification requirements.
Boeing urgently needs to get the 737 MAX back in the air in order to get out of a historic crisis.
The aircraft represents more than two thirds of the company’s order book and is therefore crucial for the manufacturer’s medium-term survival, which, like the entire aeronautical industry, is suffering from the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
In late April, Boeing released details of a workforce reduction plan to reduce the total workforce by 10%, or about 16,000 employees in total.
In March, the rating agency S&P lowered its rating for Boeing to BBB from A-, placing it in a speculative category.
Additional modifications required by foreign aviation authorities could add substantial costs to the MAX program. They could also slow the increase in deliveries that Boeing would need to replenish its cash flow.
(This story has not been edited by GalacticGaming staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)