SINGAPORE, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has set out in detail a “waterfall” of actions that must be carried out before the grounded Boeing 737 MAX returns to service.
Speaking to reporters in Singapore, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said there was no timetable either for a crucial certification test flight or for a decision to end the 11-month-old global grounding, imposed after two fatal crashes.
But he said the certification flight was approaching . He listed steps lasting about a month between the certification flight and the earliest possible ungrounding. However, this does not account for any surprises in testing.
It also excludes the process for getting individual airline training plans approved, which varies between countries. Wearing two hats, the FAA will approve the minimum training required as the main certification authority for the MAX, and then it will approve U.S. airlines’ individual plans as their home regulator.
Following are the detailed milestones described by Dickson in a briefing to journalists at the Singapore Airshow. Some of the tasks will be carried out concurrently.
* Certification flight test by FAA pilots to evaluate the compliance of final software, revised following the crashes.
* Analysis of flight data, expected to take “a few days”.
* Multi-regulator Joint Operational Evaluation Board (JOEB) simulator exercises to evaluate Boeing’s training proposals. Dickson and his deputy will personally complete the training alongside U.S. and international crews. Takes 9-10 days.
* This results in an addendum to a Flight Standardisation Board (FSB) report, which in turn defines minimum training needs. “It will take a few days to complete that,” Dickson said.
* The result will be put out to public comment for 15 days.
* The combined JOEB and FSB process “is roughly probably 30 days from beginning to end,” barring surprises, Dickson said.
* Final design documentation is prepared.
* A final Technical Advisory Board report will verify design changes. “That seems to be tracking well,” Dickson said.
* A master Minimum Equipment List is established after public comments that have been sought since Dec 5.
* FAA issues a document called a CANIC (Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community) describing upcoming “significant safety actions”.
* FAA publishes an Airworthiness Directive advising airlines of required corrective action and, “within a day or two,” the FAA would rescind the grounding order published last March. This marks the official ungrounding of Boeing’s best-selling jet.
* The FAA will then issue certificates of airworthiness to each individual jet. In the past, this was mostly delegated to Boeing but the FAA has said it will do the work itself on the 737 MAX at first. This “won’t be forever,” Dickson said.
* Airlines must meanwhile get their own individual training plans approved by their various regulators.
In the United States, armed with the FSB report, they would talk to training departments and come up with a plan that must then be approved by the FAA. Foreign airlines would have a similar process with their domestic regulators, Dickson said. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by Barbara Lewis)
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