By Lester Ranby
The US Federal Aviation Administration is moving to fast-track its recertification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, with US media reporting the planes could be cleared to fly by early June.
The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded worldwide since mid-March after two deadly crashes involving Indonesia’s Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines killed 346 people over a five-month period.
Two representatives of Australia’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, have arrived in the United States to be part of the Joint Authorities Technical Review, an international panel of experts hosted by the FAA to review the 737 MAX.
The Australians, a pilot and an aeronautical engineer, will begin work this week with experts from eight other civil aviation authorities, who have 90 days to review the 737 MAX’s automated flight control system.
With the reputation of the FAA under a cloud over its original decision to allow the Boeing 737 MAX to fly, Australia has no plans to independently test the aircraft beyond attending the FAA-hosted group, according to CASA.
The large forward-mounted engines give the Boeing 737 MAX a tendency to pitch nose-up.CREDIT:NINE NEWS
Extra large jet engines attached to the 737 MAX’s 1960s-era airframe give the aircraft a tendency to pitch nose-up under certain conditions. Boeing devised a software fix, known as MCAS, to counteract this by using the plane's horizontal tail to tilt the nose down.
However, preliminary crash reports implicate the software for sending the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines planes into deadly nosedives.
Boeing has prepared a software patch to stop the automated MCAS system from erroneously taking control of the aircraft.
The FAA panel will be limited to looking at the aircraft’s software and will not review the airframe or engines that cause the nose-up characteristics.
Earlier this month, the FAA posted a draft report that suggested pilots don’t need to practice on a Boeing 737 MAX flight simulator before flying the new aircraft.
CASA would not be drawn on whether it would be willing to go beyond what the FAA mandates, such as requiring 737 MAX flight simulator training.
“We’re not locked into anything, we’re going in with an open mind,” CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told The Ageand The Sydney Morning Herald.
“We’ll talk to fellow members of other civil aviation authorities that are attending the meeting and take it from there.”
Virgin Australia has ordered 40 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft scheduled for delivery starting later this year.