The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced this week that it would not clear the grounded Boeing 737 MAX jets for flight by year’s end as expected, citing Boeing’s failure to reach a series of milestones necessary for the jet’s approval.
All of Boeing’s 737 MAX jets, which were a best-seller for the plane manufacturer (72% of Boeing's 2018 deliveries were 737 planes), were grounded worldwide following two separate plane crashes that claimed the lives of 346 people. Since then, the fate of the 737 MAX jets has been uncertain, and now the FAA’s decision to deny the jet’s approval could lead Boeing to cut back on, or even halt, production of the planes.
There are five key milestones Boeing must complete with the FAA before return to service: FAA eCab Simulator Certification Session, FAA Line Pilots Crew Workload Evaluation, FAA Certification Flight Test, Boeing Final Submittal to the FAA, and the Joint Operational Evaluation Board (JOEB) Simulator Training Evaluation. Currently, Boeing has only managed to achieve FAA eCab Simulator Certification Session.
Ed Pierson, former senior manager for Boeing ’s 737 Factory in Renton, Washington, spoke during a hearing with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week, where he discussed the deteriorating conditions of the factory and how that could’ve contributed to the deadly crashes.
“The factory produced hundreds of aircraft, including the two 737 MAX planes that crashed in October 2018 and March 2019. I witnessed a factory in chaos and reported serious concerns about production quality to senior Boeing leadership months before the first crash. I formally reported again before the second crash. No action was taken in response to either of my reports,” said Pierson.
He created a list of recommendations for the committee to consider before clearing the jets to return to service, including: a comprehensive investigation of the 737 factory; directing the FAA to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive for Boeing and airlines to inspect, test and, if necessary, replace faulty plane parts; and requiring Boeing to get FAA approval prior to increasing production rates to ensure production stability.
“I am not a disgruntled employee and I never imagined that I would find myself in this position. I am here today for one reason: To prevent future tragedies by ensuring that regulators and Boeing take every step necessary to prevent the loss of additional lives,” Pierson concluded.
According to a report from Reuters, the FAA is unlikely to approve the jet’s return until January, though some U.S. officials think it may not be forthcoming until February at the earliest. Airlines have said they need 30 days or more to prepare their jets and crew once the FAA gives clearance for flight.