Boeing 737 MAX certification flight tests to begin

The grounding of the fast-selling 737 MAX aircraft in March 2019 triggered lawsuits and investigations. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 June 2020

Boeing 737 MAX certification flight tests to begin

  • Grounding of the fast-selling 737 MAX in March 2019 triggered lawsuits, investigations
  • Rigors of the test campaign go beyond previous Boeing test flights

SEATTLE/WASHINGTON: Pilots and test crew members from the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing Co. are slated to begin a three-day certification test campaign for the 737 MAX on Monday, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The test is a pivotal moment in Boeing’s worst-ever corporate crisis, long since compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic that has slashed air travel and jet demand.
The grounding of the fast-selling 737 MAX in March 2019 after crashes killed 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia triggered lawsuits, investigations by Congress and the Department of Justice and cut off a key source of Boeing’s cash.
After a preflight briefing over several hours, the crew will board a 737 MAX 7 outfitted with test equipment at Boeing Field near Seattle, one of the people said.
The crew will run methodically scripted mid-air scenarios such as steep-banking turns, progressing to more extreme maneuvers on a route primarily over Washington state. The plan over at least three days could include touch-and-go landings at the eastern Washington airport in Moses Lake, and a path over the Pacific Ocean coastline, adjusting the flight plan and timing as needed for weather and other factors, one of the people said.
Pilots will also intentionally trigger the reprogrammed stall-prevention software known as MCAS faulted in both crashes, and aerodynamic stall conditions, the people said.
Boeing and the FAA declined to comment.
The rigors of the test campaign go beyond previous Boeing test flights, completed in a matter of hours on a single day, industry sources say.
The tests are meant to ensure new protections Boeing added to MCAS are robust enough to prevent the scenario pilots encountered before both crashes, when they were unable to counteract MCAS and grappled with “stick shaker” column vibrations and other warnings, one of the people said.
Boeing’s preparation has included hundreds of hours inside a 737 MAX flight simulator at its Longacres facility in Renton, Washington, and hundreds of hours in the air on the same 737 MAX 7 test airplane without FAA officials on board.
At least one of those practice flights included the same testing parameters expected on Monday, one of the people said.
After the flights, FAA officials in Washington and the Seattle-area will analyze reams of digital and paperwork flight test data to assess the jet’s airworthiness.
Likely weeks later, after the data is analyzed and training protocols are firmed up, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, a former F-15 fighter pilot who has promised the 737 MAX will not be approved until he has personally signed off on it, will board the same plane to make his assessments, two of the people said.
If all goes well, the FAA would then need to approve new pilot training procedures, among other reviews, and would not likely approve the plane’s ungrounding until September, the people said.
That means the jet is on a path to resume US service before year-end, though the process has been plagued by delays for more than a year.
“Based on how many problems have been uncovered, I would be stunned if the flight tests are ‘one and done,’” said another person with knowledge of the flight plans.
“(The FAA will) make sure they find enough stuff wrong to demonstrate they are putting this jet through its paces. The last thing the FAA or Boeing wants is for the Administrator to do his own flight and say ‘it’s not ready.’ Boeing wants Dickson’s flight to be a coronation.”
Regulators in Europe and Canada, while working closely with the FAA, will also conduct their own assessments and have pinpointed concerns that go beyond the FAA. They may require additional changes after the 737 MAX is cleared to return to service.
“This is new territory,” said one industry source with knowledge of prior Boeing tests. “There’s a lot more play between regulators, and certainly a lot more pressure and public attention.”


Turkey on brink of recession as economy collapses

Updated 13 August 2020

Turkey on brink of recession as economy collapses

  • Consumer debt has increased by 25 percent to more than $100 billion in the past three months

JEDDAH: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity is plunging in lockstep with Turkey’s collapsing economy and the country is on the verge of a potentially devastating recession, financial experts have told Arab News.
The value of the Turkish lira has fallen to 7.30 against the US dollar and the central bank has spent $65 billion to prop up the currency, according to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Consumer debt has increased by 25 percent to more than $100 billion in the past three months as the government moved to help families during the coronavirus pandemic, but the result has been a surge in inflation to 12 percent.
With the falling lira and increased price of imported goods, the living standards of many Turks who earn in lira but have dollar debts have fallen sharply.
The economy is expected to shrink by about 4 percent this year. The official unemployment rate remains at 12.8 percent because layoffs are banned, although many experts say the real figures are far higher.
To complete the perfect storm, tourism revenues and exports have been decimated by the pandemic, and foreign capital has fled amid fears over economic trends and the independence of the central bank.
Wolfango Piccoli, of Teneo Intelligence in London, said logic dictated an increase in interest rates but “this is unlikely to happen.”
Piccoli said central bank officials would strive to avoid an outright rate hike at their monetary policy meeting on Aug. 20. “A mix of controlled devaluation and backdoor policies, such as limiting Turkish lira’s liquidity, remains their preferred approach,” he said.
There is speculation of snap elections, and Erdogan’s view is that higher interest rates cause inflation, despite considerable economic evidence to the contrary.