The head of the Federal Aviation Administration took to the skies to test pilot the Boeing 737 Max. The jumbo jet has been grounded for the past 18 months following two crashes that killed 346 people. Investigators discovered that the crashes were caused by a faulty sensor, which sent incorrect data to the plane's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which was designed to help stabilize the jet. The inaccurate data forced the plane's nose down and the MCAS system prevented the pilots' attempts to regain altitude. The pilots also lacked training on the system, which was not included in the Max's training manual.
Boeing has been working to fix the problems and completely rewrote the software for the entire flight control system while creating brand new training material for pilots.
FAA Chief Steve Dickson, who is a former pilot, vowed to get in the cockpit and fly the Boeing 737 Max before his agency would recertify the aircraft. He spent hours in a simulator and studied all the new training material to prepare for his test flight.
On Wednesday (September 30), Dickson flew over Seattle, Washington, for about two hours. After the flight, he had good things to say about the plane.
"I like what I saw, and I felt prepared," Dickson told reporters. "I think, most importantly, I felt that the training prepared me to be very comfortable."
He cautioned that the FAA is not ready to recertify the aircraft and said there is still "some work to do."
"We are not to the point yet where we have completed the process," Dickson said. "We're in the home stretch, but that doesn't mean that we're going to take shortcuts to get it done by a certain date."
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