Airlinerwatch

FULL ARTICLE

FAA issues new rules for the operation of 737 MAX jets

Washington D.C. - The FAA issued a document dictating additional rules for the airlines on how to operate the 737 MAX jets when the grounded jet returns to the service.

The public has 30 days to comment on the document.

Boeing is finalizing changes to a flight-control system linked to two crashes, in Indonesia and Ethiopia, that killed 346 people. The manufacturer is also altering the plane’s flight-control computers after tests showed they were vulnerable to failure.

The company must complete an audit of the software changes and test the revised system in flight simulators with a variety of pilots. In addition to signing off on the redesign, the FAA is devising new pilot training.

The company must complete an audit of the software changes and test the revised system in flight simulators with a variety of pilots. In addition to signing off on the redesign, the FAA is devising new pilot training.

One of the more technical steps in the process is to revise what’s known as the Master Minimum Equipment List, which lays out conditions under which an operator can fly the aircraft with a variety of malfunctions.

Major breakdowns require that a plane get fixed before the flight, but airlines can fly with relatively minor malfunctions if there are adequate backups and repairs are performed within a prescribed time.

Previously, airlines operating the MAX were allowed to fly in limited circumstances with just one of the plane’s two flight-control computers functioning. Each computer contains its own backup system, so FAA concluded it wasn’t a safety hazard to fly with only one for brief periods.

However, Boeing is changing the computer software so that in the future each of the two computers will be constantly monitoring the other. The changes will create greater redundancy for the plane, which was adapted from earlier versions, making it more in line with newer aircraft.

Because the two computers will rely on each other, airlines shouldn’t be allowed to fly the plane without both systems, the FAA concluded, according to a question-and-answer document prepared for family members of victims in the two MAX crashes.

The FAA proposes that both flight control computers be required, which reflects Boeing’s new software architecture that requires both computers,” the agency said in the document.

This is a positive sign of the measured approach for ensuring the safe return to service of the 737 MAX and the thorough approach by the FAA in this process,

Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said in an email Thursday night.

It’s not clear how the FAA action will affect the timing of the return of the 737 MAX to service. Even if the agency approves the software changes Boeing is making, the plane can’t fly passengers until the equipment rules are finalized, which won’t occur until January at the earliest.

While such decisions by FAA are almost never contentious, it’s possible the agency’s work could be slowed if it receives numerous dissenting opinions during the public comment period.

Via Bloomberg