HOTR: Boeing still sees MAX 3Q recertification

By the Leeham News staff

June 10, 2020, © Leeham News: Despite COVID slowdowns, Boeing still expects recertification of the 737 MAX in the third quarter, say people familiar with the situation.

Whether this timetable proves out remains to be seen. But this is the schedule Boeing continues to work toward.

The two key regulators are the Federal Aviation Administration and Europe’s EASA. Other regulators are expected to follow their leads.

Concurrent recertification as conventionally thought of—recertification and everyone authorizes a return to service at the same time—isn’t realistic. After EASA recertifies the airplane, the member states’ own regulators must step up and formally do so. This may take a couple of weeks.

China’s CAAC was the first regulator to ground the airplane. It has its own process. There isn’t a reciprocity agreement with the FAA in place. (There are bilaterals, which aren’t the same thing.)

Other issues

The software fixes to the MCAS is done. But Boeing still has wiring to fix on the 450 stored MAXes (airlines must fix wiring on their ~385 grounded airplanes). And Foreign Object Debris inspections on the stored aircraft must be completed.

Boeing, in an email to LNA, said, “We continue to inspect all of the more than 400 airplanes we have in storage. A number of them were found to have FOD in the fuel tank.” It declined to specify how widespread the FOD discoveries are.

On the wiring issue, Boeing said, “We continue to work diligently to ensure the 737 MAX meets all safety and regulatory requirements before it returns to service. Boeing is proceeding with a plan to modify wiring on all 737 MAXs, delivered and undelivered, to ensure they are in compliance with regulatory requirements.”

Neither of these issues should affect recertification, although compliance will likely affect delivery dates.

Values, lease rates continue to plunge

Aircraft values and lease rates continue to plunge in the wake of the global transportation meltdown in March.

Ishka, the appraisal and consultancy firm, published its latest data of aircraft values and monthly lease rates. It compares the three-month COVID period with the 12-month post-9/11 period to provide some gauge in how values declined then and now.

The aircraft are 10-years old in the tables.

“The inference is that these changes will continue with the downward trend in the coming months. Bear in mind these numbers also reflect unencumbered values; an aircraft on a decent lease with a good credit will have a different set of metrics over time. These numbers are also not the end of a discussion,” Ishka says.


18 Comments on “HOTR: Boeing still sees MAX 3Q recertification

  1. I would think Boeing is responsible for fixing he wiring on those delivered

    What does fixing the wiring entail? Barrier or a new wire run?

  2. Totally agree, that whether FAA and EASA clear this Bird, Boeing still has many hurdles to overcome with other International authorities, and it should quit predicting any approval period, which sounds more like an indirect promotion of its Stock, with still too many question marks floating in the air.

    • May 2019 was the first date remember. Boeing needed to be engineering driven during this debacle.
      I just don’t get how engineering standards have dropped so far.

      • MCAS and AoA fixes were available in May 2019, But the new cosmic ray testing in June became far more stringent and forced a rewrite of the flight control software.

        That then took until October 2019, and the resulting software audit went into January 2o2o. Then the cabling issue surfaced, and although not a safety issue, it was a compliance issue and still has to be addressed.

        Then we got into COVID and here we are. I think Q3 is a reasonable guess at this point. Other regulators need to be able to travel to participate in the certification flights.

        • Rob: While I agree on the current timeline, the wiring not a compliance issue.

          Wiring separation failure is a safety issue they did not comply with.

          Its not like you got your placard a little wrong.

          Just because the FAA missed it on the NG, does not turn it into a stamp thing.

          Wiring separation is there because it is a safety issue.

          • TW, if you read the Seattle Times piece, they explain that this particular issue is over compliance and not safety, since the probability of an problem developing is extremely remote.

            Also if you read the FAA documentation of the EWIS regulation change from 2008-2010, they explain that only the risk assessment methodology is being changed. Thus a wiring practice in the NG which did not exceed the risk threshold under the old rules, now would under the new rules.

            But they were also clear that did not imply that older aircraft were unsafe. They were just raising the standards to better identify future potential sources of problems.

            In accordance with this, they also said that existing types (like the 737) would be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the manufacturer requesting a ruling as to which regulations (old or new) would apply to the amended type. Boeing failed to do this, and I think that was a major factor in the denial of their massively late request.

            It’s similar to the cosmic ray thing. There was no safety issue there either, since the odds are so remote, but the issue was again compliance, in that if the regulations say so, it has to be done. Boeing has acquired a reputation for doing first and asking later. I’m sure the FAA wants to discourage that.

            Another indictor you can look for is whether a fine is issued. In cases where the FAA has missed something or is also culpable (MCAS, wiring), there is no fine. In cases where Boing had sole reporting duties (slats, sensors, displays) there is a fine assessed.

            This is why there is no effort to push these requirements backward into the NG. There’s not a safety issue.

            The FAA knows that by grounding the MAX, they’d be pushing more people into the NG. They wouldn’t allow that if it increased risk to passengers and crew.

          • Rob:

            You are attempting to do the Boeing spin that the problem does not exist.

            Boeing claims there is no safety issue.

            The reg is there as a safety issue.

            It does not matter if its occurred, its possible.

            By your method, we can remove all the regs (wow, they did didn’t they, its called MCAS!)

            MCAS is what you get from that sort of spin. It does not fly.

            Nope, no regs needed, just put a smiley face on the form and we are good to go.

        • TW, MCAS was a very clear engineering failure, easily identifiable by even a non-technical person by a simple application of common sense. It has no defense. All that can and has been said, is that it was not the sole cause of the two accidents. But it was a major contributing factor and Boeing has not escaped responsibility for that.

          That is not anywhere in the same league as the cosmic ray or wiring issues. No one has denied that those issues should be resolved, or suggested that the regulations should be scrapped or ignored. But the impact of those issues should not be lumped together with MCAS as equivalent problems. They are absolutely not.

          That is the same typically reductive thinking that characterizes the F-35 as a disaster. Critics love to do this, it’s intellectually easy, it feels good, and it confirms their already negative view. But it doesn’t stand up to factual analysis. The truth and the world are is just not that simple.

          One reason I give the Seattle Times so much credit, is that however critical they are, they still give the opposing side and try to reconcile the two views, rather than being reductive. That is good analysis and best informs the topic at hand, for those people who are trying to develop objective understanding of the truth.

    • All regulators will have the opportunity to participate in the re-certification tests. The FAA has been very open and inclusive throughout the process. Whether they do or not is up to them.

      Obviously China has a major beef with the US on other issues right now, so that may play a factor with them.

      I think for most of the world, it will depend on their establishment that the FAA has been completely thorough this time. If they are convinced of that, they will accept the certification. If they have doubts, they have their own separate processes.

      So it’s in the interest of Boeing and the FAA to be completely open and allow full participation. I don’t know about Boeing because they don’t say much, but the FAA certainly has done that.

      • @Rob,

        On 03 Sept 2019 Patrick KY, the Executive Director of the EASA, titled “Exchange of views European Union Aviation Safety Agency” which expressed EASA’s view of the B737 safety concerns at that time. The EASA review involved an unprecedented level invoving around 20 multi-disciplinary experts, including test pilots and engineers, 2-3 weekly web based meeting with Boeing and the review of some 500+ documents and actions.
        From the this review EASA found and published a list of bullets points detailing what they classified to be the “Significant Technical Issues” concerning the B737 Max. These are listed below:

        1 Lack of exhaustive monitoring of the system failures resulting in stabliser.

        2 Too high forces needed to move the manual trim wheel in the case of stabiliser runaway.

        3 Too latae disconnection of the autopilot near stall speed (in specific conditions)

        4 too high crew workload and risk of crew confusion in some failure cases, especially Angle of Attack single failure take-off.

        All these findings were communicationed to Boeing and the FAA in July 2019.

        Well its now June 2020. This means that Boeing have had nearly a year to address the above issues raised by the EASA.

        Most of the above can be addressed by updates/rewrites of the flight control software, even a third digit airspeed indicator can be created to help identify faultly airspeed indications, but not so the excessively heavy forces on the manual trim wheel.

        I have carefully followed the 737 Max re-certification reports in the technical press but have failed to find any details of how this particular problem is being addresses. Can you (Rob) or any others that have information please enlighten me on how Boeing have gone about fixing the issue.


  3. Thank you for this good article. I just wish to clarify the following:
    When EASA re-issues the Type Certificate, there is no action related to the TC from the Member States as they have transferred the responsibility of issuing TC to EASA.
    However, the Member States will have to re-issue the Certificate of Airworthiness of individual aircraft and ensure that operators have included in their documentation any changes to MMEL, flight manual, instructions for continuing airworthiness. In addition, operators will have to modify their training programs to comply with any new training requirements resulting from the process called Operation Suitability Data. This OSD process is managed by EASA as it is part of the TC. Member States will need to check that Operators have actually incorporated these changes.
    Indeed the whole process will take time.
    Best regards

  4. Scott, thanks for the link to Dan Reed’s article in Forbes on Southwest.

    It’s interesting that their comeback plan is linked to the 737 MAX. Boeing will have enough of their orders ready for delivery to allow them to quickly replace some of their older 737’s. Depending on deferments and cancellations from other airlines, they may even be able to accelerate their plan.

    Also interesting that they may still utilize the older 737’s, if their hoped-for growth in market share materializes. They would have the resources readily available.

    Obviously all of this is still highly uncertain, but I like their stance of figuring out ways to use the existing circumstances to their advantage.

    If fate cooperates and they can actually pull it all off, that would be a classic example of turning lemons into lemonade.

    (And yes, I know most here will say that the MAX is the lemon, but so be it, the saying is still appropriate).

    • Agreed, put enough sugar in anything and its just fine.

      Of course missing is that there is a trade off involved and its around Maint checks and warranty.

      A heavy check cost a lot of money. A warranty is free. Ryan air made a killing on running their 737s to end of warranty and then selling them (not sure if they still are or not)

      And you can thread the needle by parking those up for the Maint and then only doing it if needed (FedEx keeps a number of aircraft in a hot storage both figuratively and literally)

      The juggling calculations are fascinating, sadly its on the back of a financially a disaster for so many.

      • I don’t see them doing this on anyone’s back, what they are doing is good business practice. The point was they are looking at how to best move forward in the current climate, and that involves the 737 MAX.

  5. With the process kick off (certification flight) claimed to be late June.

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