FAA Chief Calls Test Flight of 737 ‘Productive’ But Work Remains

The chief aviation regulator in the U.S. called a test flight of theBoeing Co. 737 Max Wednesday “productive,” but said the agency hasn’t completed its work assessing the fixes needed to return the plane to service.

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson, a former airline pilot who is licensed to fly the 737, flew the plane for more than 90 minutes over Washington state. Dickson had promised last year after becoming FAA administrator to fly the aircraft before the agency approves its return to service.

“I like what I saw this morning,” Dickson said at a post-flight briefing in Seattle. “But we are not at the point yet where we have completed the process.”

While Dickson’s flight isn’t required by FAA rules and has no direct impact on the plane’s certification, it marked a symbolic milestone as the company and airlines prepare to resume flights on the controversial plane.

The jet, Boeing’s best-selling model, was grounded in March 2019 after the second crash left 346 people dead. A software system implicated in both crashes was redesigned and the FAA is also requiring Boeing to rework potentially dangerous wiring and to revise the design of the plane’s flight computers.

The FAA could give final approval to the fixes soon and is also preparing to release proposed new pilot-training requirements. Other regulators in Europe and elsewhere have said they are alsoclose to approving the plane.

Michael Stumo, whose daughter died in the second crash, blasted the Dickson flight as having “no statistical validity but creates a sheen of product endorsement.”

“This hyped test flight is a public relations gift from FAA administrator Dickson and deputy administrator Elwell to Boeing’s public relations and marketing efforts,” Stumo said in a written statement.

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