United States: Boeing 737 MAX cleared to fly again

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Boeing will be able to start turning the page on the 737 MAX crisis, the United States having authorized the aircraft to fly again on Wednesday, almost two years after it was immobilized on the ground following two accidents that killed 346 people in within five months.

• Read also – Boeing 737 MAX: Ottawa will wait before giving its approval

Several changes will need to be made to devices before they can be returned to service.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), the air regulator in the United States, also specifies in a press release Wednesday that it still has to approve the training necessary for pilots before any flight of the Boeing 737 MAX in the sky American.

“It has been a long and grueling road to this decision,” FAA Director Steve Dickson said in a video accompanying his decision. “But we said from the start that we would take the time we needed to get it right. We have never been guided by time, we have followed a methodical and deliberate process “.

Mr. Dickson himself flew the plane on a test flight in September.

Airlines will also have to carry out maintenance work on planes stationed on airport tarmacs since March 2019.

Planes stored at Boeing will need to be inspected by an FAA inspector before being sent to customers.

The company American Airlines has nevertheless already planned a flight at the end of December, on a link between Miami and New York.

The 737 MAX, which was Boeing’s sales engine before its setbacks, will not immediately return to the global sky: the civil aviation authorities of other countries have decided to carry out their own own certification.

The decision of the FFA is an “important step”, reacted Boeing in a statement, ensuring to be ready to work with the regulators around the world for a rapid return to service.

“These events and the lessons we learned from them reshaped our business and focused more on our core values ​​of safety, quality and integrity,” said CEO David Calhoun, quoted in the statement.

Return complicated by the pandemic

The Boeing 737 MAX will return to an area hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With financially struggling airlines and sluggish traffic, Boeing lost a total of 393 orders in the first ten months of the year.

However, the Seattle-based manufacturer will be able to resume deliveries, which will allow it to be paid and replenish its coffers. It currently has 450 devices in stock.

The biggest change to be made to the planes will be the MCAS flight control software, which pilots on the flights of Lion Air on October 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines on March 10, 2019, have failed to master.

Other software also needs to be changed, as does the repositioning of some cables.

The crisis will have been deep for the company.

Dennis Muilenburg, boss of Boeing at the time of the accidents, left in December 2019 after several months of friction with the FAA. Mr. Dickson notably criticized the group for an “unrealistic” restart schedule.

Boeing estimates for now that the 737 MAX crisis cost it around $ 20 billion: $ 11.3 billion due to the direct and indirect costs associated with the production of the aircraft itself and the suspension of its manufacture for several months and 8.6 billion related to compensation offered to airlines.

“It’s a floor,” remarks Michel Merluzeau of the AIR firm.

The immobilization of the devices on the ground also resulted in “two lean years in terms of the maintenance services associated with it”, underlines the specialist.

Even if it is sometimes complicated to quantify them, one must add the costs related to the damage to the reputation of the group and the sums that the builder will pay to the families of the victims.

In addition, the company is unlikely to sell as many 737 MAXs as it initially hoped.

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