The FAA has told US lawmakers that administrator Steve Dickson will pilot the Boeing 737 Max next week ahead of a potential ungrounding of the beleaguered aircraft.

Dickson, a former commercial pilot, earlier this year pledged he would personally fly the aircraft before it is recertified. 

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Source: Max Kingsley-Jones/FlightGlobal

FAA’s Dickson to pilot 737 Max on 30 September

The US aviation regulator also says on 25 September that it met with aviation authorities of other jurisdictions including Canada, Europe and Brazil earlier this week to complete the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) assessment on the aircraft. The JOEB’s findings will be published in the agency’s draft Flight Standardisation Board (FSB) report. The FSB will then develop pilot training requirements ahead of a return to service and a Technical Advisory Board must evaluate final Max design documents.

“FAA administrator Steve Dickson and FAA deputy administrator Dan Elwell will be in Seattle next week to take the recommended training that the JOEB evaluated,” the FAA says. “Following the simulator training, Administrator Dickson is tentatively scheduled to pilot a Boeing 737 MAX on 30 September, fulfilling his promise to fly the aircraft before the FAA approves its return to service.”

The 737 Max was grounded worldwide more than 18 months ago after two separate accidents killed 346 passengers and crew. The aircraft’s new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was found to be at fault in both crashes.

In August, the FAA suggested four key design changes to the troubled aircraft in order to address the safety issues that had led to the crashes. The proposed Airworthiness Directive (AD) includes proposals that will enhance the safety of the aircraft as well as the ability of the cockpit crew to deal with potential issues.

The public comment period for the AD recently ended and the FAA says it is reviewing the comments it received.

“The FAA will not approve the plane for return to passenger service until it is satisfied that all of the known issues have been adequately addressed,” the regulator tells the lawmakers.

Earlier this week, American Airlines, which has 24 737 Max aircraft in its fleet and another 76 on order, said its pilots will begin “special training” in November in preparation of the jet’s return to service. All of the airline’s 737 pilots are expected to complete the training by January 2021.

Last week, a US congressional report concluded that a “culture of concealement” by Boeing, as well as erroneous technical assumptions, combined with insufficient oversight by the FAA, contributed to the deadly crashes of the 737 Max in Indonesia in October 2018 and Ethiopia in March 2019.

“The Max crashes were not the result of a singular failure, technical mistake or mismanaged event,” the report, released on 16 September, concludes. “They were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA — the pernicious result of regulatory capture on the part of the FAA with respect to its responsibilities to perform robust oversight of Boeing and to ensure the safety of the flying public.”

Boeing has said it is looking to deliver a majority of its 450-strong 737 Max stockpile within one year of resuming deliveries of the still-grounded jet. The Chicago-based airframer accumulated those aircraft because it continued manufacturing the Max through most of 2019 despite being unable to deliver it due to the worldwide grounding.