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FAA Clears Boeing 737 MAX for Return to Service; Pilot Training and Maintenance Steps Remain

Grounded since March 13, 2019 following two tragic accidents, the FAA today rescinded the Emergency Order of Prohibition, paving the way for the Boeing 737 MAX return to service. The FAA must still approve pilot training revisions for each U.S. airline.

Boeing 737 MAX 9 - Courtesy Boeing

On Wednesday (November 18, 2020) the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rescinded the Emergency Order of Prohibition which grounded the Boeing 737 MAX fleet on March 13, 2019. The grounding order followed the fatal accidents of Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019, resulting in the tragic loss of 346 lives. In addition to the rescission of the grounding order, the FAA also published an Airworthiness Directive (AD) specifying required design changes required prior to the aircraft’s return to service, a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) and published the new MAX training requirements.

Although today’s announcement paves the way for the return of the MAX, it does not indicate an immediate return to service (RTS). The FAA must still approve 737 MAX training program revisions for each U.S. airline operator and the parked MAX aircraft must undergo a series of required maintenance steps before returning to revenue service. In the following video, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson outlines the comprehensive and methodical safety review process that has resulted in today’s order to unground the MAX.

Responding to the FAA’s announcement on Tuesday, The Boeing Company’s Chief Executive Officer, Dave Calhoun, said,

“We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations. These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity.”

Also commenting on the FAA’s announcement, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ President and Chief Executive Officer, Stan Deal, added,

“The FAA's directive is an important milestone. We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.”

The FAA’s Airworthiness Directive published today will require airlines to install software enhancements, complete wire separation modifications, conduct pilot training and complete a thorough “de-preservation” of grounded MAX aircraft prior to RTS. Boeing has taken important steps to strengthen their focus on safety and quality including a new Organizational Alignment, Cultural Focus and Process Enhancements. As part of the new organizational alignment, Boeing has brought together over 50,000 engineers in a unified organization that includes a new Product Services Safety unit, unifying safety responsibilities across the entire company. The company has also shifted cultural focus where engineers have been empowered to improve safety and quality as part of Boeing’s commitment to identifying, diagnosing and resolving issues with a sense of urgency and higher level of transparency. Finally, the company has adopted next-generation design processes, enabling greater levels of ‘first-time’ quality.

Source(s): FAA, Boeing


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