Issue Briefs

Once It Gets Green Light From FAA, Boeing Still Faces Complicated Task To Get 737 MAXs Off The Ground

Once It Gets Green Light From FAA, Boeing Still Faces Complicated Task To Get 737 MAXs Off The Ground

November 13, 2019

By Loren Thompson

The crisis confronting Boeing’s 737 MAX jetliner is gradually wending its way to resolution. Sometime in the first quarter of 2020, the plane will again be carrying passengers on commercial routes.

If there is one thing that followers of the MAX’s travails should have learned from media coverage that began with a tragic crash in October of 2018, it is that everything about the operation and oversight of commercial transports is complicated.

Consider, for instance, the basic steps involved in returning the plane to service. First the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) needs to approve a software update to the MCAS flight control system and a redesign of the plane’s twin flight control computers so that the MAX can be recertified as airworthy. Then the FAA needs to approve revised training requirements and supporting documents for crews who will be flying the plane. Then the grounding order is lifted, after which each carrier must submit proposed training programs to regulators for approval, training is conducted, and the MAX can finally begin carrying passengers again.

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The views and opinions expressed in this issue brief are those of the author.

Loren B. Thompson is a Senior Adviser at GPI, Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Source Associates, a for-profit consultancy. Prior to holding his present positions, he was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs at Georgetown. He has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Thompson holds doctoral and masters degrees in government from Georgetown University and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Northeastern University.