FAA administrator flies MAX in next step to recertification

By Scott Hamilton

Sept. 30, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing is one step closer to recertifying the 737 MAX.

Steve Dickson

Steve Dickson, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, fulfilled a pledge this morning to pilot the MAX as one of the final steps in the recertification process.

The MAX was grounded in March 2019 following the second fatal accident of the airplane in five months.

Dickson said he would not recertify the airplane until he piloted it and was satisfied Boeing redesigned the now-infamous MCAS software that triggered events leading to the two crashes.

The flying experience

Dickson flew a simulator before the test airplane. He said he experienced a variety of problems in the simulator that might occur. Some of these were repeated in today’s test flight.

“It was important to me to experience first-hand the training and the handling of the aircraft to understand process going forward,” he said.

This flight is different than the certification flight, Dickson said.

Dickson ducked a direct question from LNA asking whether he experienced an MCAS trigger in the simulator or flight testing and if he was satisfied with the recovery—and whether there was anything he found troubling or unsatisfactory.

“I liked what I saw,” Dickson said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have some debrief items for Boeing and the teams. I have some observations I want to share with them and it will be incorporated into the process going forward.”

“We will not certify the airplane until I’m satisfied” all the problems have been solved. There were 10 incidents involved in the test flight and simulator Dickson experienced.

Is the MAX safe?

Dickson was asked if the MAX safe and would Dickson put his family on it?

“We still have some work to do yet,” Dickson said. “My flight today and simulator training gives me an excellent basis. It has been a productive, constructive week. I like what I saw this week,” but the FAA is not done yet on the path to recertification.

“We’re in the home stretch, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to take shortcuts,” he said. The FAA is reviewing more than 200 comments submitted in the Notice for Proposed Rule Making process. The comment period ended Sept. 21.

Dickson said the FAA, Europe’s EASA, Transport Canada and Brazil’s regulator strived for consensus and there is very little daylight between them. Believes there will be consensus when the process is complete.

EASA said previously it expects to certify the MAX next month. Dickson did not indicate a timeline. The FAA would be first to certificate the airplane.

84 Comments on “FAA administrator flies MAX in next step to recertification

  1. A CNBC TV report on this test flight just re-iterated that the CAAC stance on the MAX is still the big elephant in the room…

    • I suspect CAAC will go along with the EASA, Canada and the FAA.

      CAAC move may well have not been What Its About Is Not What Its About” but it was the right move regardless of motivation.

      I have no qualms that MCAS 1.0 has been corrected.

      Other issues are still there as has been brought up. That includes the old hodge podge added in cockpit, the cascade of useless alarms, utilizing the third available airspeed to deal with an IAS on either side as well as the mnaul trim issue.

      I could care less about AOA and believe it has not place in a commercial aircraft. Its more overload that does not tell you anything you don’t know for IAS and the AI.

    • This is a political problem, not a technical one. China dragging it’s feet won’t be consequence free.

      • Its technical as no two countries will ever see eye to eye on certification issues.
        The FAA wouldnt agree with some testing that RR did for the Trent XWB engine not so long back. Wanted it done slightly differently.
        Way back the Brits wouldn’t agree to the 707 tail fin having sufficient stability ( or something like that), eventually the extra height was done for all the 707s not just the BOAC ones.
        theres bound to have been many differences over the years ..all technical and of course more recently Boeing has been well known over its ‘technical’ differences with FAA.

      • You wag the dog here, don’t you .-)

        From the US side this is all about China not exposing its belly and inviting rape with a “thanks” on their lips. ( like the last time. Hint : Opium Wars )

      • China didn’t certify the A350 until several years after the rest of the world had done it…and that was at a time when China and the EU got on relatively well.
        No changes were required: they just dragged their feet to show their power.

    • CAAC will need to make their own decision, but we know that Chinese airlines are preparing their MAX’s for flight. Also pilot training companies with offices recently opened in China, have ordered 737 MAX simulators.

      So we know at least there is preparation and planning for resumption. That isn’t a guarantee of success and the politics are difficult at best. But EASA didn’t seem to think that it wouldn’t happen, although they see it later than other regulators.

  2. While I have no severe issues with the MAX now (I have reservations and issues with other aspects as many have stated)

    Dickson is doing a fluff show. Its rigged and just a stunt.

    Put Barney Fife in the cockpit and see how he does.

    • Dickson is following through on a promise, and being sure about his decision because he must ultimately approve the MAX. All of this was in his comments. It’s a smart and prudent move by a person who is committed to a good process.

      The continued inclusion of derogatory language is an indication of the quality of your commentary. Also the lack of evidence that is provided for the allegations that are made.

      If you have proof that the flight was rigged or a stunt, please let us know. The flight path indicates that he was checking the things he mentioned, and running the simulator scenarios that he described.

      • Scott:

        Nothing more than an attempt to put it in perspective.

        How the MAX performs under Indonesian or Ethiopian regs for flight crew experience is what counts, not a well prepared FAA administrator.

        In the two crashed the PIC needed all the help they could get from a horribly confusion situation and were task saturated.

        While as I have stated, I believe MCAS 1.0 has been corrected, Dickson flying it is meaningless in real world terms.

        Having Dickson take the ODA back the way it was originally designed would be a move worthy of merit.

        • TW, in case you haven’t been following this story, the FAA in conjunction with the JOEB, has been testing with third-world pilots. In fact a broad range of pilots were used to evaluate the changes, specifically to address the concerns you raised. This is documented in the AD summary.

          Dickson himself said today he has not flown in 15 years, and needed the simulator training beforehand. So perhaps would be a good example of a pilot who is not at test pilot capability levels.

          It had meaning for people who respect Dickson and the fair & open process he’s tried to establish. But perhaps not for those who lack that respect.

          • Rob:

            Been associated with aviation for over 60 years, so yes I am following it. I said nothing said about the other pilots.

            This particular flight had no relevancy other than PR spin.

            Boeing is fully aware of the third world pilots as well as their human factors failures in cockpit designs.

            I have extensive writings on that subject. Its not exclusive to Boeing either.

            The public can take this as a win at a huge cost to get Boeing to acknowledge it.

            Much like the 737 rudder issue, Lauda Air 767, MAX, people have to die.

            What I admired ab out Airbus though was AF447, they at least persisted in a full recovery of the boxes and confirmed that 3 well qualified pilots could crash a modern perfectly good workign aircrat.

  3. Sir,
    I wonder, where was Mr. Dickson when FAA certified 737MAX before the two disasters and on what basis originally FAA certified it.
    Please advise, what was the roll of the chief pilot who flew the plane before and whether FAA took his opinion / approval before previous and final certification?????

    • @RSal: Dickson was appointed to his job in July 2019, long after the plane was certified in 2017 and four months after it was grounded.

    • To follow up on Scott’s comments, the FAA test pilots flew the MAX in 2016 with both the original and later more powerful versions of MCAS, and both passed certification testing.

      The OIG report found that although the test flight team (both Boeing & FAA) knew about the MCAS changes, and even proposed some of them, they also believed MCAS was well through the safety analysis process. They didn’t know the assumptions that had been made earlier or how they were violated by the new changes. Thus their work was reported as routine, when it had actually created a significant hidden hazard.

      • In 2016 FAA and Boeing were best buddies and the “good” FAA guys got Boeing jobs.
        There was never a flight without a Boeing pilot in a pilot seat. NEVER, not yesterday, not a week before.
        How is this even possible, the police is robbing the bank with the thieves together.
        The flying public has to wait for NAS or Ethiopia to do own flight testing without Boeing.

        • Leon, the Boeing controls are specifically designed so that one pilot cannot control the aircraft without the other knowing. So there’s no way the PM could alter the aircraft performance without the awareness of the PF.

          It’s not like an Airbus where two pilots can control their sidesticks without each other knowing (as occurred with AF447), and the aircraft averages their inputs.

          I’m sure that FAA, EASA or Canadian test pilots would object if they thought anything like that was being done. And the aircraft is so heavily instrumented, it would be difficult to conceal from the reconciliation of control inputs to control surface & handling outputs.

          • Somewhere was reported that another plane followed the certification flights. I wonder if it was an EASA plane flying the same maneuvers.

          • What also was interesting was the Program pilot was not a Boeing employee, he came in form another airline, then went onto South West.

            Pretty weird stuff in how Boeing is addressing the test area (was) though it seems to continue with the layoff of 7 more.

          • It’s not like an Airbus where two pilots can control their sidesticks without each other knowing (as occurred with AF447), and the aircraft averages their inputs.

            you get an aural warning “dual input”.

          • Uwe, agreed but that didn’t help AF447. Two of the pilots did not know the third had the stick fully back, until he announced it.

            And the point I made stands, the notion that a Boeing pilot in the second seat invalidates the test, has no substance or merit.

          • @Rob

            “It’s not like an Airbus where two pilots can control their sidesticks without each other knowing (as occurred with AF447), and the aircraft averages their inputs.”

            You still inventing untrue stories to bash Airbus and “help” Boeing. Sad.

          • “Until the very end” makes no difference. Point was that the aircraft allowed differential control inputs without pilot awareness. The report makes this very clear, but it blames the pilots since the alarm was present.

            That particular differential control error could not have happened in a Boeing aircraft. That’s a statement of fact, not a statement of comparison or superiority. Each control method has both strengths and weaknesses.

            The Airbus designers did not envision the pilot actions that occurred. Afterwards there was greater emphasis on CRM training and the use of the left/right override switches.

            That sequence will be recognizable to anyone familiar with the MAX accidents. We are going through the same sequence again right now.

  4. Everyone: Stop with the personal attacks and sniping. Otherwise I will close comments.

      • Steve:

        I am a commercial rated pilot, SEL, with an Instrument Rating (which was not required for commercial license at the time)

        I have also executed a good landing in an MD-11 simulator with no background or training, sitting off the East end of fire Island suspended in mid air (sims are pretty cool) when they pushed the go button.

  5. From FlightGlobal:

    Dickson flew 10 “flight scenarios” that involved experience with the jet’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) – the flight control system that contributed to two Max crashes.

    Dickson also experienced “all the changes made to the flight-control computers and autopilot systems”, he says.

    “I like what I saw on the flight this morning, but we are not to the point yet where we have completed the process,” he adds.

    Dickson had no difficulty maintaining safe flight, even during scenarios in which the aircraft “was significantly out of trim”, he adds.

    “The flight today replicated [aspects] of the new design of the aircraft,” Dickson says. “I got a chance to see how the new system performed, and essentially it’s a much more benign system than the original design.”

    “I felt very comfortable and very prepared based on the training… that I completed,” Dickson adds.

    Prior to the flight, Dickson completed training recently recommended by the FAA’s Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB).

    Dickson said he has no concerns about manual trim.

    “If you maintain control of the aircraft, you are not going to have any problems in the normal flight envelope with the manual trim system,” he says.

    Hmmm… Sounds to me like a super unstable aircraft with zero elevator authority and a 5 man trim wheel.🤣

    • Dickson is a Trump soldier. Other regulators kept him low. Dickson gave them a free choice of systems which should be fixed and he took their opinion of choices as his own. Why would an expert do this. This is total defeat.

      If Dickson felt MCAS in a MAX-7 he should fly a MAX-9. There was no last seat row blocked on an A319 too. Why is Boeing now asking for both pilots to turn the manual trim wheel? I wonder if Dickson flew in a recliner.

      On ET302 the PF asked the PM to pull up with him. So both pilots can steer the plane at the same time. But during certification flights there was always a Boeing pilot in a pilot seat, knowing exactly what to do to prevent situations LOL
      This is like kindergarden. How can Dickson say he will certify it it only if it is safe, when Lemme, Ewbank and many others posted defeating comments.
      Did Dickson land with spoilers only? There must be a reason that Boeing introduced “Landing with spoilers only” on the MAX, hidden in the manual without training as the last prayer before death.

  6. “Dickson ducked a direct question from LNA” while I understand his position, I still don’t like it. Just be honest, we need honesty, and transparency to regain trust.

    I’d have preferred a response such as “Yes, I experienced an MCAS trigger event in the sim, and in flight, I’ll be doing a thorough debrief with Boeing.”

    I’d feel like he did test the main issue (MCAS), as it stands, the question hangs in the air, did he or didn’t he experience an MCAS trigger event. As you say in the States YMMV.

    “If you maintain control of the aircraft, you are not going to have any problems in the normal flight envelope with the manual trim system,” he says. (FlightGlobal)

    Yes, but the problem is when the pilots are so distracted by various issues, stick shaker, overspeed clacker, unreliable airspeed, don’t sink warnings etc. so that the airplane gets slightly outside the “normal” flight envelope, you still need to be able to “manually trim”.

    Suggestion, a) fix all the alerts so that they make sense / can be cancelled if necessary, b) re-wire the stab trim cut-out switches back to the way they were on the NG so that pilots would be able to kill speed trim / MCAS and still be able to use electric trim to get the aircraft back in trim.

    Option b) actually looks like the simplest, cheapest option.

    I still don’t get why stab trim switches were changed. If they went back to NG version, they may never be needed, but I do wonder if they had been wired as per NG if both crashes would have happened (they may have, pilots may still have followed the checklist, and flipped both switches, but I suspect some pilots may have identified the issue, and flipped the auto pilot switch to try electric trim).

    There was a comment apparently from a 737 pilot who said he’d have killed the electrics, and flown the plane manually as the MAX is still a fly by cable airplane.

    • Jakdak, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that after the thorough review that Dickson has personally conducted, he would have questions after the test flight & training, which he just completed yesterday. Both for his own FAA staff and Boeing. He also might want to discuss them with, or include in the discussion, the other regulators, to make sure the process remains open and transparent. As he has done from day one.

      It’s also reasonable that the press conference would not be the proper venue to discuss those questions. I wouldn’t, you wouldn’t. We would take them to the experts involved, and ask for answers. Then you would bring them forward if unaddressed concerns still remained. As EASA would I’m sure, if needed.

      He said he ran the simulator scenarios in flight that are included in the new training. We haven’t seen that yet but we will. There is trust between FAA and EASA, and those are the agencies we charge with flight safety.

      As to the NG switch configuration, that is in the comments several times, so we’ll see what the response to comments is in the final rule.

      I think your questions will be answered by the normal public release of information, and I don’t think Dickson is in any hurry, or desires to bypass any of that. So you will have answers. But he isn’t going to discuss that after just stepping off the plane.

      • Rob, and Pundit,

        I understand he wasn’t going to go into details in response to questions from the press immediately after flying the airplane.

        All I am saying is that people want to believe that things are being done properly, and they’re looking for honesty, and transparency.

        Appearing to duck a question never looks good. It creates a perception that isn’t helpful.

        If you look at my suggested response “Yes, I experienced an MCAS trigger event in the sim, and in flight, I’ll be doing a thorough debrief with Boeing.”

        That’s not going into detail, it’s respecting the fact that he will have things to discuss with Boeing before answering the press/public. But I’m pretty sure he will have experienced MCAS trigger events, so why not say so, be specific, and disarm the conspiracy theorists before they have a chance.

        If you give a conspiracy theory any oxygen, it’ll grow into a bigger fire, snuff it out before it has a chance to grow.

        For what it’s worth, I do think he’s doing an OK job.

        In the world we currently live in, facts are one thing, perception is quite another, he has to manage both.

        He also has to be mindful that sadly an awful lot of people base their lives on emotion, and perception, and they seem to have little regard for scientific fact.

        A group who bought a ring laser gyroscope to try to disprove something most people consider fact springs to mind. They performed their experiment, confirmed what we all know, but they are currently evaluating what their experiment means, but still cling to their own theory.

        This is the world that we now live in. Perception matters !


        • @JakDak
          Moreover: if someone agrees to give a press conference, there is a legitimate expectation that that person will make a diligent effort to answer questions. In addition to syntax, people also pay attention to attitude and body language: dodging a question gives bad vibes.

          • Let’s be clear, Dickson did make a diligent effort to answer questions. He did not refuse or dodge questions. He declined to comment or speculate on those where he needed to evaluate first, which is expected. The entire conference is on YouTube for anyone that wants to watch.

            I cannot speak for Scott, but I suspect he used the term “ducked” in the context of did not provide a specific or detailed answer. Not in the context of evasion or attempt to mislead or deceive. Scott can please correct me if I’m wrong about that.

          • Rob, I’m not saying it was a deliberate attempt to dodge questions, I’m suggesting there are ways to phrase answers that are better able to create a perception of a frank, and honest response.

            The best way to answer a direct question so that you leave no room for error, and don’t create a perception that you’re evading the question, is to answer it directly.

            Q. Did you experience MCAS activation ?
            A. Yes, we’ll be discussing the entire flight with Boeing in a debrief session, so I won’t comment further on the specifics at the moment. Next question please.

            As I said, I do think he’s doing an OK job, in my book around a B+, but I’m a bit harsh, I want him at a level of A+ due to the importance of what he’s doing.

            Pundit, the media have their job to do, some in the media may have an agenda, sometimes an attention grabbing headline will create extra revenue. I would hope most of the free media would report facts, properly sourced, and cross checked.

            In today’s social media world unfortunately ‘facts’ are often presented with little basis, and they find an audience ready to believe a ‘celebrity’ with absolutely no qualifications in the relevant field more believable than an expert with 30 to 40 years of highly relevant experience.

            Has anyone watched The Social Dilemma ?

            There are elements in there that people really should think about.

        • jak… – a consideration with your suggested response — “Yes, I experienced an MCAS trigger event in the sim, and in flight, I’ll be doing a thorough debrief with Boeing” — is that the media’s job is then to report that account: “Boeing 737 MAX MCAS triggered during FAA test flight…” That responsibility includes talking to Boeing, very possibly before the OEM has received the debrief and the very likely temptation then for reporters to perceive chicanery if Boeing is unable to answer a straight question. That would have the appearance of being neither completely honest nor transparent.

          • Reply to Jak… – re ‘…sometimes an attention grabbing headline will create extra revenue’. Of course. And, yes, ALL of the professional free media should ‘report facts, properly sourced, and cross checked…’
            Nevertheless, a headline, which ought always tobe simple, is no more than ‘What you shout across the office when you first hear it…’
            For “attention grabbing” — ultimately the name of the game — how about ‘Pope elopes’..? Or, gosh, ‘Concorde crashes…’?

    • Jak… – if, indeed, he had not yet (de)briefed with Boeing, he owes them the courtesy of such before briefing the media, don’t you think?

      • The point is that Dickson if he is going to represent a real flight, will have a Co pilot who had the same level of qualification of the Indonesian and Ethiopian crashes.

        Dickson is a pilot, he is not a qualified test pilot whose job is to sort out systems and make them safe and compliant.

        The Non Flying pilot was an fully experienced test pilot.

        Of course you would not conduct a flight the way Dickson did either.

        It would be in a simulator and the full range of manual trim requires so when you crash, no one is killed.

  7. Believe me, this is not an attack, but is Administrator Dickson wearing his face mask upside down? Many similar designs sport a stiffening rim at eyebrow level. Just askin’…

  8. Believe me, this is not a personal attack, but is Mr Dickson wearing his mask inverted?

  9. Steve Dickson is a class act. It is called leading by example. It is too bad Boeing does not hire executives like him. He would not pass muster there because he does not have a background in accounting.

  10. Would be interesting to know how Boeing will implement the 3rd alfa probe EASA demanded and its voting logic probably derived from the data available on its databuses, in addition the Stick shaker disconnect button and how quickly it will be introduced on the already produced Aircrafts. I assume the flightradar24 or similar software could not see if he grossly misstrimmed the Aircraft and then used the 737-200 yo-yo maneuver to hand trim it to neutral and if it will be reintroduced into some checklist?

    • I also am very interested to see how the third sensor will be implemented.
      Even more interesting is how it will be embodied: physical or virtual.
      And even more interesting again: will it even be connected in actual production aircraft, or will it be like the (now famous) AoA Disagreement Light on the original MAX?
      And of yet further interest: if connected at all, how long will it take before it’s shorted out by metal shavings and/or crossed wiring?

      • Thanks, no yo-yo flying in this flight profile. The 3rd alfa probe derived alfa with voting logic will come after a Boeing SB introducing modified Avionics software that the EASA AD will refer to. The stick shaker cutout most likely require some hardware introduction together with software mod. This will take some time to design and verify so maybe the SB comes out 2021-2022 and the EASA AD mandating the switch and software 2022-2023?

    • He did say in the press conference that a mis-trim situation is among the new training simulations he took, and verified in the test flight. How much mis-trim, we have to wait to see in the posted training. My guess is it will be an amount that could be reasonably expected in flight. We have a huge history of 737 flight time to know that routine mis-trim and runaway trim are recoverable.

      We’ll have to wait on the 3rd sensor & stick shaker info, as Boeing is still developing proposals for those things. I’m sure it will be released when ready.

    • @Bryce: No desperation. Of course Boeing is trying to find buyers for the white tails. Why wouldn’t it?

          • A real 767 replacement would be something special, because an A322 could not reach the size of the 767-300. Also the A321LR is restricted to 180 pax to reach the 4000nm range, it might be similar for the XLR.
            But I’m sure Delta is very happy not to have the MAX. So why should they now, because of a low price? I doubt that, not in this climate.
            There might be other cheap offers on the used plane market too.
            Delta made a decision early for the A220, waiting for the A220-500 would make sense, if Airbus wakes up.

            Not easy for Boeing. How many canceled stored MAX do they have? Everybody knows they produced MAX in advance and are still producing. They could sell the whitetails as new stored planes, there’s not a big difference.
            It seems United is very Boeing friendly, was United the other airline to get an offer?

          • @Leon, I think DAL are doing analysis of the impact if a competitor like Spirit would pick up a large batch of 737-8 on the cheap and compete directly with DAL. DAL is big enough to have a split narrowbody fleet and replacing its 130 737’s with 737MAX8’s together with a MRO licence for Delta Tech ops to do MRO work on its engines and parts with full licencing is one row in its spreadsheet. Still Airbus also models DAL and want it to make more money operate Airbuses than a mixed fleet, still what happened to Boeing on the 737MAX can in theory happen to Airbus A321neo/PWA as well.

          • “”what happened to Boeing on the 737MAX can in theory happen to Airbus A321neo/PWA as well.””


            sorry, what do you mean?

        • @Bryce

          Indeed, why not Delta ?

          Boeing could give Delta a deal that makes a lot of sense (pretty much cost price so that Boeing doesn’t loose money), but also stop Delta from deciding they’d like some A320NEOs when they can get them.

          Delta has over 200 737s already, and some of their A320s are to be retired soon, so why not offer whitetail MAXs at prices that Airbus just can’t get anywhere near ? Also Boeing can offer those MAXs pretty soon, how long would Delta like to wait for an A320NEO ?

          With Ryanair, O’Leary could potentially cancel a bunch of MAXs, but is he going to suddenly switch to A320s ? I don’t think so, he will just extract a better price for continuing with his order, and not cancelling.

          I suspect you’ll see a follow-on order as soon as it’s clear how rapidly post COVID travelling will expand again. The follow-on order would probably be at a price arranged as part of the deal not to cancel any of his existing order.

          • Delta has a considerable number of 737-900 in the fleet.

            While they clearly favor Airbus these days, they are not beyond takign what works.

            They took the C Series before Airbus took it over and made it the A series.

          • Of course it’s theoretically possible that Delta could take MAXs if offered at an attractive price…just like it’s theoretically possible that they could take Irkuts when the time comes.
            My comment was more directed to the cool relationship between Delta and Boeing, and Delta’s tendency to favor Airbus.

            Moreover: in line with the question that I asked below w.r.t. Ryanair, is there any carrier at the moment that wants to take extra orders of anything? Not to mind extra orders of something that it hadn’t initially ordered? Or is Boeing hoping that Delta will cancel A320neos in favor of taking MAXs instead…thereby cooling the Airbus/Delta relationship? I’d imagine that any airline with A320 orders is happy in the knowledge that they can potentially be swapped to A321s (for which Boeing has no meaningful equivalent) or A321(X)LRs (for which Boeing has no equivalent at all).

          • Bryce,

            Actually Delta has orders for A321NEOs not A320NEOs, so I don’t see them cancelling the 321s for MAXs.

            Some of Deltas A320CEO are due to be retired soon, with COVID, possibly they will wait to replace them, or they might take advantage of a Boeing offer of MAXs at pretty much cost price. I don’t know the age of their NG fleet, but as they have both 737s, and Airbus NB, they have options.

            Personally if I was Boeing, I’d offload as many Whitetail MAXs as I could even if it was around cost price. Boeing need to stop erosion of their market share, and we don’t know what’s around the corner for the economy.

            As they say, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, having 400 Whitetail airplanes hanging around costing money isn’t helpful.

  11. Any opinions on what Ryanair will do with its MAX orders (135 + 75 options)?
    Ryanair is currently in deep trouble, and it can’t count on any form of bailout/loan.
    There was a time when O’Leary couldn’t get his MAXs quickly enough, but his turnover has been decimated since then, and there’s currently no light at the end of the tunnel. He has the option of using the MAX grounding to do a penalty-free cancellation of the entire order: if predictions that the industry will take a decade to get back to normal are correct, then he’s not going to need that extra capacity for a long time to come.
    The situation for Ryanair is worse than for Southwest, because Ryanair has to contend with a patchwork of different national rules in Europe, whereas Southwest has a much more homogeneous situation within the USA.

  12. In been awhile since I’ve looked at recent LNA articles and comments, but help me understand something. How is an article like this vetted and published without even a passing reference to Mr.Dickson’s background and qualifications to fly the 737 Max?

    • Again I can’t speak for Scott, but possibly because it’s been discussed here before, and is widely known and reported. Dickson retired from Delta after a long career there, first as line pilot on 737 and then as VP of Operations. Still holds his 737 rating and commercial license.

      Deputy FAA director Elwell has a similar rating on 757 & 767. So he took the MAX simulator training but could not pilot the 737 with Dickson.

    • @Montana: Dickson’s background as a former Delta captain rated on 737s has been well known since his July 2019 appointment.

      • Thanks, Scott; I admit I haven’t been following his background and qualifications. However, I think Leon (below) raises some additional, very pertinent, detailed issues on Mr. Dickson and his 737 Max flight. Bottom line: Was he a fully qualified 737 Max crew member, and fully “legal” for the flight, in regards to his currency, and what could still be considered a “test flight” over populated areas? And, who, for goodness sake, could legally sign off on any of his flight exceptions? Personally, I think the FAA’s and Boeing’s lawyers could well have “been asleep” on this one. Riding “jump seat” is one thing, and, probably a better thing in this case, rather than reported direct piloting!

        • @Montery: Dickson was rated on the 737NG but hasn’t been a line pilot for 10-15 years.

          Test flights are typically over water or in sparsely populated areas, like Eastern WA. The FAA has its own pilots, BTW.

        • Also Dickson’s credentials were not challenged in filing a flight plan, or arranging or planning the flight, by any party involved. He effectively had a flight check in the simulator the day before. This was suitable and legal for a pilot conducting a test flight in a test aircraft. He has a current and active commercial license. I’m sure he has taken actions over the years to maintain that status.

          It would be very different for a pilot stepping into the left seat of a commercial flight carrying passengers. I’m sure no airline would permit that without significant additional checks. I’m also sure Dickson would not make such a request, being fully aware of his own capabilities and limitations.

          Bottom line, he made a test flight, to verify for himself what he learned in the simulator training, on the actual aircraft. Also to get a feel for the quality of all the work that has been done. To be able to speak authoritatively on the subject and sign his name to the ultimate recertification order.

          That remains a commendable action on his part, no matter how much shade we try to cast upon it here. It’s not diminished by the fact he hasn’t flown commercially in awhile, whether he is a test pilot, whether or not his copilot was a test pilot, etc. I’ve seen some contrived arguments presented here, but this one is really something else again.

    • If Dickson didn’t fly for 15 years, I would think he lost his license to fly a plane long time ago, he certainly lost all memory items and that can’t be corrected with one day of training.
      And I thought that the health needs to be checked first and that takes time. Was it checked?
      Is an 63 years old even allowed to fly? Sullenberger retired at age 59.
      And flying over populated land, why was this even allowed.
      Dickson doesn’t look fit. How could he jump into a narrow pilot seat.
      Some people can’t do certain jobs. For example tall guys can’t become firefighters because they are too tall for special suits. There might be restrictions for pilots too.

      • Leon:

        You do not “loose” your license.

        If you are no longer current, you would have to get current if you were to be PIC.

        For training purposes, the Co Pilot only has to have a current FAA medical.

        Most flying of the type (LCA) Dickson engaged in is done in a Simulator.

        Clearly his flying added no validity to the process. PR.

        Unfortunately FAA is both PR for aviation and the regulator and that is an area that is way past correcting as well.

        In this case he had his PR hat on. That is a conflict of interest that is legal.

        Much like Boeing having the Chairman of the Boar and the CEO as the same person. It legal but its a conflict of interest as the Chairman of the Boards job is to see that the CEO is acing in the interests of the company.

        Another one of the many corporate corruption that are going on (salary tied to shares, share buy back)

        • Thanks TW,

          I didn’t expect this, not for such big planes. I had the chance to get a pilot license when I was studying. I didn’t take it because a certain amount of flight hours was needed every year and that wasn’t cheap. Maybe the rules were different in Germany long time ago.

          But fact is, if you are 15 years out of business you forget a lot and it would take time to get it back and then you still need to update and piloting a plane is another league.

  13. On Reuters today:
    ‘Representatives Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rick Larsen, who heads an aviation subcommittee, said that the FAA should not give the plane the go-ahead to fly commercially again before it releases “system safety assessments, related analysis, assumptions about pilot response times and key test data concerning the safety of the aircraft.” ‘


    • Congress has it’s nose out of joint because the FAA has refused to publicly release some documents. Dickson has told them, and repeated on Wednesday, that the FAA has to follow the law on this matter, their insight and access into documents depends on confidentiality, just as it does for NTSB.

      Congress cannot force the release, it doesn’t have that power. So instead they try to create public pressure. That is part of the Congressional hypocrisy, as I mentioned before, and is part of the reason I admire Dickson. He isn’t bullied by anyone. He sat down Mullenberg when needed and has sat down DeFazio when needed. He has a job to do under the law and is focused on that, rather than the nonsense.

      Other regulators such as EASA are bound by the same rules. FAA can share that data with other regulators and NTSB but not with Congress. They all can make the information public if they determine it’s a threat to public safety, as they do in enforcement actions or cause determinations. We have expert agencies to whom we give that power on our behalf, for a reason.

      • “”He has a job to do under the law and is focused on that, rather than the nonsense.””

        Dickson just did a nonsense job when he flew in a MAX and did so for months.
        Why should the public not be informed about FAA system safety assessments, related FAA analysis, FAA assumptions about pilot response times and FAA key test data. These are not Boeing secrets. But it would show the garbage job FAA is doing.
        FAA did that before, calculated 15 more crashes and let more people die, where was the law then.
        Dickson is part of the problem, only a Trump soldier.

        • Leon, those assessments are based on confidential work product, until legally placed in the public domain. FAA will do that if and when it’s legally permissible and consistent with their mandate for public safety. For the moment at least, they have determined that it isn’t.

          Congress wrote those laws to give FAA and NTSB unlimited power of investigative discovery, but that discovery relies on confidentiality. FAA and NTSB have made this point over and over again. They can’t do their jobs without unfettered access to proprietary and confidential information. Take away confidentiality, and you have a protracted court battle for every incident and request. That just doesn’t work.

          But Congress wants their own laws to apply to everyone but them. They would badly lose this case in court, and they know it. They can’t say we wrote the law, so we’re exempt. So the FAA has acted properly here and will continue to do so.

          The public right to be informed is not absolute, just like the right to free speech is not absolute. Some limits are in place to protect the rights of others and society in general.

      • “…their insight and access into documents depends on confidentiality.”

        Confidentiality can be waived. It happens all the time.

        • All rights can be waived, doesn’t mean they should be. Much of common law depends on accepted prior practice. A waiver can be used as grounds for future release demands.

          Governments often respond that they can neither confirm nor deny confidential actions. Other entities decline comment altogether. Why? Because to do so moves the law in the direction of expected acknowledgment. Those responses hold the law in the established position. They have a specific purpose and value.

  14. It’s interesting in the present circumstances to re-read Scott’s January 2013 words re FAA and airworthiness approval process (in the context of 787 problems and grounding). This from https://leehamnews.com/2013/01/16/thoughts-about-the-faa-boeing-787-program-review/: “The FAA has never been adequately staffed, nor staffed with enough experts, to conduct program development and certifications without relying on the manufacturers and supply chains to provide analysis and expertise.
    “Since the creation of the FAA, this system has worked pretty well. Although some may argue that the FAA and the industry are too cozy—and sometimes there certainly appears to be justification in this criticism—it’s in nobody’s interest to screw up. The airplane makers and their stakeholders have to make safe airplanes. The FAA—the regulators—have to assure that the airplanes are safe. The airlines, who carry the passengers, clearly need safe airplanes…”

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