Boeing’s 737 Max is one large step closer to returning to American skies after being grounded for over a year and a half. The FAA has issued an order effectively clearing the 737 Max’s return to service once airlines follow key procedures. They’ll have to install Boeing’s updated software, use updated manuals and procedures, rework horizontal stabilizer trim wiring, conduct a sensor test and perform a test flight.
The move is a long time in coming. Officials determined in October 2019 that the two fatal 737 Max crashes were the result of a flawed anti-stall system and a lack of adequate training to override it. Boeing had already been developing a fix before then, but numerous flaws delayed its use. The company only started key flight safety tests in late June of this year, and received EU clearance in October — two years after the initial Lion Air crash.
It will take a long while before the 737 Max is carrying passengers. The updates, training and tests could take months to complete in some cases, and that’s provided airlines start the process right away. Southwest, the largest adopter of Boeing’s jet, isn’t poised to resume flights until spring 2021. The timing is less than ideal as it is — the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced air travel and the need for more aircraft.
The new system relies on two sensors and gives pilots more opportunities to override anti-stall measures. However, some families of crash victims have argued the efforts aren’t enough. As CNN notes, they believe the 737 Max design is inherently flawed and want a third sensor as well as revised alerts. However effective Boeing’s current solution may be, it’s clear the 737 Max and its creator have lost a lot of confidence.