FAA Formally Proposes Fixes for Return of Boeing's 737 MAX Jets -- Update
By Andy Pasztor and Andrew Tangel
U.S. air-safety regulators for the first time publicly spelled
out the full range of hardware, software, crew training and
maintenance changes they are proposing before Boeing Co.'s 737 MAX
jets will be allowed to resume flying passengers.
The 36-page document released Monday -- filled with detailed
technical explanations and multiple new emergency checklists for
pilots -- had been expected. Many of the four proposed design
changes and extra equipment tests largely track the various safety
enhancements Federal Aviation Administration officials began
crafting even before the MAX was grounded globally in March 2019,
following two fatal crashes that took 346 lives.
Still, the proposal marks a decisive moment for the MAX fleet,
along with Boeing and its airline customers, because it signals
that the FAA, foreign regulators and the company have reached
consensus on the most important fixes and controversial technical
details. Subject to a 45-day public comment period and what is
likely to be weeks of additional FAA analysis and responses,
Monday's move appears to keep the MAX on track for what government
and industry officials project could be a return to widespread
commercial service by early next year.
Before that can occur, however, the FAA will wait for the
results of a series of independent technical reviews, simulator
tests by international pilots and further public comments on
specific pilot-training requirements. Those simulator sessions are
projected to begin in three weeks at Boeing's pilot-training
facilities at Gatwick Airport outside London, according to one
person familiar with the details, though the timetable could
A Boeing spokesman said: "While we still have a lot of work in
front of us, this is an important milestone in the certification
The document technically covers only 73 Max airliners registered
to U.S. carriers. But with few exceptions, foreign regulators and
carriers appear poised to go along with the proposal for some 400
aircraft Boeing previously delivered around the world. Regulators
in Canada, the European Union and Brazil, who have been most
closely involved in the deliberations, are expected to follow the
Another roughly 450 of the planes, which haven't been delivered
to airlines, are expected to be subject to the same requirements
before they can enter service. And jets rolling off the assembly
line also will have to incorporate the eventual modifications.
As part of the FAA's action, the agency released an extensive
companion report indicating the lessons learned from what it
described as more than 60,000 hours of work by some 40 agency
experts, including pilots and engineers, including analysis of some
4,000 hours of flight and simulator sessions. In addition to the
design failures and improper assumptions about pilot reaction time
that played roles in both crashes, the report notes that the FAA
has resolved "additional safety concerns beyond those identified
during the accident investigations."
The FAA outlined additional checklists to be used in dealing
with unreliable airspeed, as well as pilots relying on more
automation when halting a descent toward landing and then climbing
away from a runway. In one of the more unusual features of the
proposal, the FAA suggests that under some circumstances, it may
require both pilots to manually crank a control wheel in the
cockpit to raise the aircraft's nose.
Between them, the two documents cover issues that have been
central to the MAX's safety shortcomings, from automated
flight-control systems prone to dangerously misfire to inoperative
cockpit warnings to hazardous wiring that could cause electric
short-circuits. The FAA, as expected, also proposed adding a
safeguard by requiring both of the MAX's flight-control computers
to operate simultaneously.
In addition, agency experts want enhanced sensor tests and "an
operational readiness flight prior to returning each airplane to
A major goal of the safety effort is to provide pilots more
timely and clear-cut information, cockpit warnings and memorized
emergency procedures in the event of sensor malfunctions or other
system failures. By reducing pilot workload in emergencies -- and
eliminating the cacophony of conflicting warnings such as those
crews experienced before the dual crashes -- the FAA aims to
dramatically enhance the fleet's safety.
The FAA is proposing revisions to checklists pilots use in
various emergencies, such as when they face contradictory cockpit
readings and alerts.
Under the proposed changes, for instance, pilots would use a
revised checklist for an emergency known as a runaway stabilizer,
which can unexpectedly push the plane's nose down without pilot
The new procedure would include memorized steps, such as one
pertaining to thumb switches the pilot can use to level the
aircraft's nose. Pilots' inability to recover using these switches
were at issue in the two MAX accidents.
The MAX crisis has eroded trust in the Chicago plane maker among
many customers, regulators and passengers, while sparking a flurry
of federal criminal, civil and congressional investigations that
are still under way.
Write to Andy Pasztor at firstname.lastname@example.org and Andrew Tangel
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 03, 2020 20:19 ET (00:19 GMT)
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