The FAA has given the green light for Boeing’s 737 Max to resume operations

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rescinded the order which had grounded the entire global fleet of 737 MAX since March 2019. The move by the FAA would not result in the immediate return to air of the Boeing 737 MAX fleet but would allow airlines under the FAA’s jurisdiction to take the steps necessary to resume service and Boeing to begin making deliveries.

The planes were grounded after two crashes within five months of each other which killed 346 people. Both crashed were attributed to flaws in automated flight software called MCAS, which prompted the planes to nosedive shortly after take-off.

Company reshaped after “lessons learned”

David Calhoun, chief executive officer of The Boeing Company 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.”

An Airworthiness Directive issued by the FAA outlines the requirements that must be met before US carriers can resume service, including installing software enhancements, completing wire separation modifications, conducting pilot training and accomplishing thorough de-preservation activities that will ensure the aircraft are ready for service.

Boeing has worked closely with airlines, providing them with detailed recommendations regarding long-term storage and ensuring their input was part of the effort to safely return the aircraft to service.

Changes to aircraft, pilot training and corporate culture

“The FAA’s directive is an important milestone,” said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.”

In addition to changes made to the airplane and pilot training, Boeing has taken three important steps to strengthen its focus on safety and quality. New measures include improving its organisational alignment by bringing together more than 50,000 engineers in a single organization that includes a new Product & Services Safety unit, unifying safety responsibilities across the company.

The company’s cultural focus has also been improved with engineers encouraged to improve safety and quality. The manufacturer has committed to identifying, diagnosing and resolving issues with a higher level of transparency and immediacy. By adopting next-generation design processes, the company is also enabling greater levels of first-time quality.

A US Congress report last month found that Boeing’s rush to production of the MAX, a decision to ignore internal safety concerns and concealment of key changes to the plane, including additional pilot training needs, contributed to the accidents.

“Excessive delegation to Boeing”

The FAA was criticised for its “excessive delegation to Boeing”. Legislation has since been introduced intending to reform the agency.

The grounding is expected to have cost Boeing around $20bn. The manufacturer still faces investigations, potential fines and other lawsuits and now has the task of rebuilding its reputation in the midst of an unprecedented downturn in air travel.

Airlines around the world have cancelled and delayed orders of the Boeing 737 MAX since the pandemic. Last month, Boeing said it did not expect the production rate to reach 30 planes a month until 2022.

Consumer association Which? Has warned that many passengers may remain uncomfortable with the idea of flying on the MAX, which is used by airlines such as Tui and Ryanair in the UK.

Which travel editor Rory Boland said: “Operators should also make clear which planes will be used for future bookings, so people can make an informed choice before travelling.”

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