A certification flight for the grounded Boeing 737 Max could take place within the next few weeks, according to the US aviation regulator.
This is a necessary part of the “re-approval” process, according to Steve Dickson, head of the US Federal Aviation Administration.
The new-generation aircraft has been grounded since March 2019 after two separate crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed a total of 346 people.
Dickson said the 737 Max will not return to service before he has flown in the aircraft himself.
Boeing previously indicated that the aircraft would not resume commercial flights until mid-2020.
But Dickson, speaking in London, said it was “not helpful” to be talking about specific timelines.
“For Boeing’s part, what I have been encouraging is to not be making public announcements, and instead focus on complete and fulsome submissions of data and proposals,” he said.
Dickson indicated that although numerous issues with the 737 Max had been resolved in the past few weeks, some concerns still needed to be addressed before a certification flight could take place.
They include issues with flight deck displays and a warning light, which he did not expect to cause a significant delay to the re-approval, as well as recently-discovered problems with the aircraft’s wiring, which could potentially cause a short circuit, the BBC reported.
Dickson also conceded that the FAA needed to rebuild trust in its own performance as a regulator.
“That’s part of the reason why I’m going to fly the aeroplane”, he said.
“I think it sends a strong message of support for my workforce and for the integrity of the process, that I would fly the airplane, and put my own family on it.
“I think we owe that to the victims and their families – to ensure that when the aircraft is put back in service, that we are as diligent as we possibly can be.”
But after regulators approve the aircraft as safe, airlines will have to retrain pilots and integrate the 737 Max back into their fleets and schedules.
European carriers affected by the groundings include Ryanair, Tui and Norwegian Air.
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