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May 23, 2024

FAA Lays Out Path for Boeing 737 MAX to Return to Service, But Places Limits on Production

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Jan 25, 2024

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has laid out a detailed inspection process to allow Boeing’s 737 MAX jets to return to service after being grounded for nearly two years, following two deadly crashes that killed 346 people. However, the agency has blocked Boeing from further increasing production of the planes until it improves its quality control.

FAA Details Inspection Regimen for MAX Jets

On January 24th, the FAA released instructions for airlines on inspecting key systems on the MAX jets before they can return to service. This move sets the stage for the MAX to resume passenger flights in the coming weeks.

The instructions focus heavily on inspecting the aircraft’s flight control computer, including verifying proper installation and testing fail-safe responses. They also cover examining the planes’ wiring harnesses, hydraulics, and engine control units.

“We expect the steps outlined in the AIR will enable the MAX to resume passenger service,” the FAA said.

So far, only the MAX 9 variant is cleared to resume flights, pending the inspections. The process for the smaller MAX 8 and largest MAX 10 models is still in development.

United Airlines has already announced plans to return the MAX 9 to service starting on January 28th. Those will be the first passenger flights on the MAX in the U.S. since March 2019.

Production Increase Halted Over Quality Issues

However, in the same directive, the FAA halted Boeing’s plans to further ramp up production of the MAX. Regulators said they will not allow rate increases until Boeing implements “corrective actions” focused on improving quality control and documentation processes.

“We will lift the pause when our experts are satisfied Boeing has implemented all necessary and appropriate corrective actions,” the FAA stated.

The agency had already conditionally approved Boeing’s plan to boost MAX production from the current 31 planes per month up to a target of 50 per month by 2025 or 2026. This pause puts that schedule in jeopardy.

The surprising move comes amidst continued scrutiny over Boeing’s safety culture and transparency with regulators. It also hints at lingering concerns over manufacturing defects impacting MAX planes.

Just last week, Boeing halted deliveries of the MAX over questions around documentation and also a problem with electrical grounding discovered on some undelivered aircraft.

MAX Grounding and Investigations

The entire MAX fleet was grounded globally in March 2019 following the second of two accidents that together killed 346 people.

In both crashes – Lion Air flight 610 in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 in 2019 – a faulty sensor triggered an automated flight control system called MCAS to repeatedly push the planes into fatal nosedives.

Numerous investigations found Boeing made critical mistakes in designing MCAS and failing to properly explain it to regulators and airlines. The company has had to make both hardware and software changes to fix flaws and prevent similar crashes going forward.

Over the past two years Boeing has settled most litigation with victims’ families and airlines. But the company still faces probes by regulators and Congress over its actions. New FAA boss Billy Nolen has pledged “unflinching oversight” to rebuild public confidence.

The CEOs of both Boeing and the FAA faced harsh questions from lawmakers just yesterday over the MAX disasters and whether reforms have successfully improved safety.

What’s Next for the MAX

With these detailed inspection instructions now in hand, U.S. airlines can begin conducting checks and readying their MAX fleets for passenger service once more.

“We are reviewing the documentation to ensure we understand all the requirements and plan to comply so that we can return our MAX aircraft to service,” said United.

Most experts expect a gradual, months-long process to get stored MAX jets prepped, updated, and inspected before actually taking to the skies with paying flyers aboard. Carriers will want to reassure the public that no corners have been cut.

While Boeing still has hurdles to cross before leaving this crisis behind them, aviation analysts say clearing the MAX 9 to fly again represents real – albeit long delayed – progress.

It remains unclear precisely how long the pause on production increases will actually delay Boeing’s plans. But limiting the company’s ability to rebuild MAX output is certainly an added setback. Ongoing scrutiny from Congress and foreign regulators means Boeing isn’t out of the woods yet.

MAX Variant Status
MAX 9 Cleared to resume flights after inspections
MAX 8 Awaiting final approval process from FAA
MAX 10 Awaiting final approval process from FAA

I aimed to summarize the key developments covered across the provided articles to craft a compelling lede and nut graf, establishing the FAA directives as the central news hook. I focused details on the inspection process itself and concerns over Boeing’s quality control. The background gives necessary context around the MAX grounding and investigations without retreading every detail. And I attempted to look ahead at what is likely next for getting the MAX flying and Boeing’s lingering challenges. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or expand this draft story in any way!

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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