FAA's Indefinite Timeline for Boeing 737 MAX 7 Certification

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not set a specific timeline for the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX 7, according to the agency's top official. This is despite Boeing's previous anticipation of certification by year's end. FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker stated that the agency will certify the smallest model of the best-selling MAX once all necessary data is available and safety is assured.


Whitaker is ensuring he is updated on the status and understands the issues arising in the process for the MAX 7 and other projects. He mentioned that these issues are being addressed and this will continue. Boeing did not comment on whether its schedule projections had changed, stating that it will follow the FAA's lead throughout the certification process and that the FAA will decide when all certification requirements have been met. In October, company executives stated that their schedule remained unchanged. Boeing is also waiting for the certification of the larger 737 MAX 10. 


Southwest Airlines, the largest customer for the MAX 7, anticipated FAA certification of the plane by April last month. Boeing is currently seeking an exemption for certain regulations related to the MAX 7's engine nacelle inlet structure and engine anti-ice system, which are identical to those used by the in-service MAX 8. This exemption, valid until May 31, 2026, would allow the MAX 7 to be certified while Boeing also certifies design changes for both systems to address issues with the engine anti-ice system overheating that could cause structural damage to the engine nacelle. The FAA is accepting comments on the proposed exemption until Dec. 26. 

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Last month, the FAA stated that it would require significant flight control design changes to be considered "major," similar to the system involved in two fatal MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019. In late 2020, Congress passed comprehensive legislation reforming how the FAA certifies new airplanes, including the requirement for manufacturers to disclose certain safety-critical information, such as information on systems that manipulate flight controls without direct pilot input or commands. A 2020 Congressional report stated that "Boeing failed in its design and development of the MAX, and the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft." Whitaker stated that the FAA needs to continually seek other ways to improve the process, increase the visibility of issues for certification as they arise, and consider new technologies and how to verify their safety. Whitaker stated that the MAX crashes have led to increased vigilance within the FAA.

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