On Sunday, the FAA confirmed to US lawmakers that an agency board has completed a review of the 737 MAX planes, clearing Boeing to begin flying them for certification testing.
An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, US, March 21, 2019.
Reuters cited two people briefed of the matter as saying that a certification flight test, which is expected to last at least two days, could begin as early as Tuesday, but still hasn't been finalized.
The planes were grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes that were blamed on the flight control software.
United States regulators are getting close to undertaking a test flight of Boeing's grounded 737 MAX and could schedule the key step for as soon as next week, two sources said Friday. Boeing's worst crisis in its corporate history has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic that brought the travel industry to a grinding halt and dented aircraft demand.
After a preflight briefing over several hours, the crew will board a 737 MAX 7 outfitted with special test equipment at Boeing Field near Seattle, one of the people said.
The flight plan may also include touch-and-go landings at the eastern Washington airport in Moses Lake and a path over the Pacific Ocean coastline, adjusting the course as needed for weather conditions and other factors, one source said.
In an email to Congress, the FAA said its Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) Board had completed its review "clearing the way for flight certification testing to begin".
The crashes cost the American passenger jet manufacturer billions of dollars and led to the resignation of its former chief executive Dennis Muilenburg, who repeatedly gave overly optimistic predictions of when the plane could return to service.
The flight tests are aimed at ensuring the new updates that Boeing made to the MCAS are sufficient to prevent the scenarios that pilots on the crash flights encountered. The clearance for these test flights is on schedule for when Boeing had previously announced they expected to be able to back up in the air.
The FAA would then need to approve new pilot training procedures and complete other steps, leading to the plane's potential ungrounding in September, the British news agency said.
That means the jet is on a path to resume US service before year-end, though the process has been plagued by delays for more than a year.
Regulators in Europe and Canada, while working closely with the FAA, will also conduct their own assessments and have pinpointed concerns that go beyond the FAA.
"Boeing continues to work diligently to support the safe return of the 737 Max to commercial service".
"This is new territory", said one industry source with knowledge of prior Boeing tests.
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