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Re-certification test flights for Boeing 737 MAX begin in Seattle

SEATTLE– Test flights for the re-certification of the Boeing 737 MAX started Monday at Boeing Field in Seattle.

According to the Associated Press and Seattle Times, the 737 MAX flew east from Seattle, landing an hour and 20 minutes later in Moses Lake, and early this evening, the plane landed back at Boeing Field.

Boeing Co. and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilots and test crews will work with the 737 MAX over a three-day certification test campaign, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

These test flights will allow the FAA to re-evaluate the proposed changes to the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) inside the 737 MAX aircrafts. The automated flight control system software activated erroneously in two major crashes in 2019,  killing a combined total of 346 people.

The re-certification of the planes mark a milestone for the Boeing company after the 737 MAX grounding, and most recently, as airline travel numbers have vastly declined in the last five months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to TSA (Transportation Security Administration), this time last year, over 2.6 million traveled through airports. Today, approximately over 630,000 passengers passed through TSA checkpoints.

On Sunday, the FAA confirmed to U.S. lawmakers that an agency board has completed a review of the  737 MAX planes, clearing Boeing to begin flying them for certification testing.

For the certification testing, after a pre-flight briefing that could take several hours, crews will be outfitted with test equipment and start training at Boeing Field in Seattle, a source told Reuters.

Included in the testing will be methodically scripted mid-air scenarios, such as steep-banking turns and progressing into more extreme maneuvers in a flight route primarily over Washington state, sources told Reuters.

Additional tests may include other routine aircraft techniques such as ‘touch-and-go’ landings at the Moses Lake airport, and flights over the Pacific Ocean coastline. Flights will be adjusted based on flight plans, weather and additional factors, sources said.

During the training, pilots will also trigger reprogrammed, stall-prevention software, known as MCAS. This software was believed to be a faulty device in both crashes in 2019, causing aerodynamic stall conditions, sources said.

Boeing declined to comment about the test flights on Sunday. An email from the FAA stated testing “will include a wide array of flight maneuvers and emergency procedures to enable the agency to assess whether the changes meet FAA certification standards,” according to Reuters.

Last week, U.S. safety officials required all 737 MAX planes to be inspected for any manufacturing defects on engine coverings that they say could lead to loss of power during flights.

Inspections and repairs, if needed, will be required before the grounded planes are allowed to fly again, according to a notice posted by the FAA.

It is not clear whether the engine-covering defect will further push back Boeing’s goal of getting the planes back in the sky this year. The company needs clearance from the FAA before the planes can fly again.

The FAA order affects 128 MAX jets registered to U.S. airlines American, Southwest and United.

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