WASHINGTON — Test pilots and crew members from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing are set to begin certification test flights for the 737 Max as early as Monday, according to sources who spoke to Reuters and the Wall Street Journal.
As Reuters reports, the campaign will span over the course of three days, while an earlier report said the test flights would last at least two days. The FAA would need to also approve new pilot training procedures along with completing other steps which could push the full ungrounding of the 737 Max up to September.
The test pilots are expected to go through a preflight briefing that could last several hours and then the crew would board a 737 Max at Boeing Field outside of Seattle, Washington according to a source who spoke to Reuters.
The test flights would be seen as a major step towards returning the 737 Max to service, all of which have been grounded since March 2019 following two deadly crashes.
Sunday Boeing released a short statement saying, "We continue to work diligently on safely returning the 737 MAX to commercial service. We defer to the FAA and global regulators on the process."
Wednesday the Associated Press reported that U.S. safety officials would require all Boeing 737 Max planes be inspected for a manufacturing defect regarding engine coverings which they said could cause a loss of power during flights. It was another blow to Boeing's safety reputation.
The issue is not related to the flight-control system which was found to have pushed planes into nosedives before two deadly 737 Max crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people.
Inspections and repairs, if needed the report said, will be required before the grounded 737 Max aircraft would be allowed to fly again, according to a notice given Wednesday by the FAA.
A Boeing spokesperson said the company recommended these inspections in December and said Boeing has been working with airline customers to ensure the engine covers are protected from electrical energy.
It was not clear if the engine-covering defect would further push back Boeing’s goal of getting the planes back into service in 2020. The company needs clearance from the FAA before the planes can fly again.