96ºF

Flight testing for Boeing’s 737 Max could begin Monday

FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max being built for Norwegian Air International taxis for a test flight, at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash. Key senators say the Federal Aviation Administration is stonewalling their attempt to get documents that might explain how the agency approved the Boeing 737 Max, which remains grounded more than a year after two deadly crashes. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, said Wednesday, June 17, 2020 that the FAA has failed to respond to more than half of his committees requests for documents. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max being built for Norwegian Air International taxis for a test flight, at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash. Key senators say the Federal Aviation Administration is stonewalling their attempt to get documents that might explain how the agency approved the Boeing 737 Max, which remains grounded more than a year after two deadly crashes. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, said Wednesday, June 17, 2020 that the FAA has failed to respond to more than half of his committees requests for documents. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Flight-certification testing for Boeing's 737 Max, which has been grounded since March 2019 because of two deadly crashes, could begin as early as Monday, according to an Federal Aviation Administration email sent Sunday to congressional oversight committees.

The company needs clearance from the FAA before the planes can fly again, and the test flights, with FAA test pilots, are a key step. They would take several days and would evaluate Boeing’s proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the Max.

The flight control system, triggered by faulty readings from sensors, pushed the planes into nosedives that led to crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing 346 people.

Even if no new problems are discovered during the test flights, it’s likely to take at least a month to get pilots trained and get mothballed planes upgraded, inspected and serviced. The FAA has to sign off on Boeing’s pilot-training program, and a panel of international regulators will comment on minimum pilot training too.

Boeing said it deferred to the FAA and global regulators on the Max certification process.

Nearly 400 Max planes had been delivered to airlines before they were grounded, and Boeing has built several hundred more.