The Federal Aviation Administration has issued its first airworthiness certificate for a Boeing 737 Max since the aircraft was grounded in March 2019. Each 737 Max will need an airworthiness certificate before it can be returned to service.
On Nov. 18, the FAA lifted the 20-month order that grounded the Max following two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Both accidents were blamed in part on one the new aircraft’s flight control systems.
Following a lengthy redesign and often contentious public debate, the FAA required Boeing to make a series of software changes, wiring and hardware redesign and develop new pilot training requirements before airlines get the go-ahead to fly the plane again.
Nearly 400 737 Max jetliners had already been delivered to airlines at the time of the grounding and Boeing resumed production in June, adding about 450 more awaiting delivery. Each one of the aircraft will require an FAA inspection and certification before it can be returned to service.
American Airlines is moving ahead with plans to relaunch the 737 Max before the end of the year. The airline’s training plan for pilots has been approved by the FAA, both the agency and airline say. And the carrier already has Max flights on the schedule starting Dec. 29 with a single daily flight from Miami to LaGuardia.
United Airlines says it expects to return the 737 Max to service sometime in the first quarter of 2021, while the jetliner’s biggest operator, Southwest Airlines, says it probably will relaunch Max flights “no sooner than the second quarter of 2021,” according to the airline’s chairman and CEO Gary Kelly.