After multiple setbacks that caused it to be grounded, the Boeing 737 MAX could return to the skies very soon.
Three days of test flights that were conducted by Boeing and FAA staff were completed this week in order to prove that the 737 MAX was safe to fly again after its design changes.
The work is far from over
While the New York Times reports that test flights have been made already, there are still steps in the recertification process that need to be completed. These include studying new documentation by Boeing as well as analysis of the newly proposed pilot training process.
Despite that, only after a public comment period can the FAA actually begin the recertifying process. After that, airlines must follow an FAA list of procedures before they can start reactivating the 737 MAX planes in their respective fleets.
But before the recertification process could even begin, one report almost put everything to a halt.
According to a federal inspector general, information pertaining to the flawed computer system that caused two planes to crash and kill 346 people was withheld by Boeing from federal regulators.
It will take some time
Despite the recent test flights, however, the Wall Street Journal says that the FAA estimates that mid-September will be the soonest they can start re-certifying the aircraft.
If things go as planned, the 737 MAX can be back in service before the end of 2020—but that’s only in the U.S.
It is expected that European and other international regulators will demand more safety modifications to the 737 MAX before the end of 2021.
This means added costs for Boeing, which will affect its profits moving forward. Not only that, but the additional demands, like adjusted simulator training for pilots who want or need to fly the 737 MAX, could mean price increases for airline customers.
Not so clear skies ahead
Even if Boeing’s 737 MAX is re-certified and cleared to go back to the air, the current coronavirus pandemic will make it difficult for Boeing to make up for the months of the 737 MAX being grounded.
The plane has been grounded since March of last year, and while the first 12 months were manageable, the COVID-19 crisis has cut down Boeing’s possible sources of funds.
Not only are airlines choosing to retire older Boeing jets in their fleets instead of spending more money on maintenance, demand for wide-body planes has also been reduced.
Airline travel is seen by experts as an industry that will take some time to recover due to the pandemic, and Boeing will definitely feel the heat from this.