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With 2 Max models at risk, Congress moves to give Boeing a break

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Political News

The Federal Aviation Administration sent a high-level letter to Boeing this month warning that the documents the manufacturer has provided for certification of the 737 Max 7 model are wholly inadequate — making it unlikely that Max 7 certification will be completed by a year-end deadline.

Political action has begun in Congress, however, to provide Boeing the time and leeway it needs to complete the safety assessment documentation.

A Republican senator on Thursday filed an amendment to a pending bill that would grant Boeing the extension it will need to get both the Renton, Washington-built Max 7 and Max 10 certified without any further design changes.

The Max 7 is the smallest model in Boeing's new 737 Max family of jets. The FAA warned Boeing in March that the largest model, the Max 10, is also unlikely to meet the deadline.

FAA's scathing letter to Boeing

The deadline looming over Boeing is embedded in the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act passed by Congress in December 2020 after two deadly Max crashes. In light of the failures in the original certification of the Max, the law was designed to reform the FAA oversight process.

 

It also laid out more stringent design standards for future airplanes — but allowed a two-year time frame for compliance, with the expectation that Boeing would have achieved certification of all the Max planes by then.

The law requires any airplane certified after Dec. 31 of this year to comply with the latest FAA safety regulation mandating what kind of alerts pilots receive when something goes wrong in flight. The 737 jet family is the only Boeing jet that doesn't meet that latest safety standard.

Pressed by European and Canadian aviation regulators, Boeing agreed to two system enhancements that will be introduced on the Max 10 that significantly improve the crew alerting system. However, the model still doesn't meet the latest FAA standard.

Two prior models, the Max 8 and Max 9, have already been certified and are in service flying passengers. But the Max 7 and Max 10 are not yet certified and, the FAA indicates, now have little chance of meeting the year-end deadline.

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