• Joe Breitfeller

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson Completes Two Hour Boeing 737 MAX Test Flight

Yesterday, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson fulfilled his promise to pilot the Boeing 737 MAX prior to the aircraft’s return to service. The two hour flight encompassed scenarios demonstrating the aircraft’s updated automated control system.


Boeing 737 MAX 7 - Courtesy Boeing

On Wednesday (September 30, 2020), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that Administrator Steve Dickson has completed a two hour test flight on the Boeing 737 MAX. The flight encompassed several scenarios to demonstrate software and design changes to the aircraft’s automated flight control system. Mr. Dickson was accompanied by FAA Deputy Director, Dan Elwell, who completed the new recommended pilot training program on Tuesday (September 29, 2020). Wednesday’s test flight was a major milestone in the return to service (RTS) of the MAX, but key steps remain in the FAA’s evaluation of Boeing’s proposed changes to the flight control system as well as updated pilot training. The FAA will not speculate on a return to service date for the MAX, stating that the grounding order will only be lifted when the aircraft meets all certification standards.




In a post flight briefing on Wednesday, Mr. Dickson stated,


“Shortly after I took the helm at the FAA, I made a promise that I would fly the 737 MAX and that I wouldn’t sign off on its return to service until I was comfortable putting my family on it. I took the same training that the Joint Operations Evaluation Board looked at during its work at London Gatwick Airport in recent days. This was followed by a session in the 737 MAX simulator, during which I had the opportunity to experience a variety of problems that presented the relevant emergencies that might occur. Today, I flew a similar flight profile in the airplane. I want to make it clear that my flight was separate from the official certification process that’s still underway by the FAA.


“I’m fortunate to be surrounded by some of the top aviation safety experts in the world to advise me on the engineering aspects of this project. But I’m a pilot, and my lens into the world of aviation has been my decades of experience in the front of the airplane. It was important to me to experience the training and the handling of the aircraft firsthand, so I can have the most complete understanding possible as we continue to move forward with the process. As you know, we posted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for an Airworthiness Directive that would address various safety issues that we and our international partners identified during the last several months. The comment period on that NPRM closed on September 21, and we are now reviewing and responding to those comments before posting a final rule.


“We expect to take the input from the JOEB and include that in a Draft Flight Standardization Board report, which should be posted for comment in the near future. I know you’ve heard me say this before, but the FAA continues to take a thorough and deliberate approach in our review of Boeing’s proposed changes to the 737 MAX. We are in the home stretch, but that doesn’t mean we are going to take shortcuts to get it done by a certain date.


“The FAA — I — will not approve the plane for return to passenger service until I’m satisfied that we’ve adequately addressed all of the known safety issues that played a role in the tragic loss of 346 lives aboard Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Not a day goes by that I and my colleagues don’t think about the victims and their families, and our solemn responsibility to get this right. And we will get it right.”


Outstanding tasks related to the RTS of the Boeing 737 MAX are outlined by the FAA below.


Remaining Boeing 737 Return To Service Tasks - Courtesy FAA

Source: Federal Aviation Administration