Another obstacle to Boeing’s aspirations to begin shipping the smallest model of its most recent narrowbody aircraft is the news that the company did not disclose all necessary documentation in the certification review process for the 737 MAX 7.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to sources in the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, has informed Boeing that some of the important documents the manufacturer gave are incomplete and others need to be reevaluated for assumptions related to human factors.
The news outlets cited a letter from the FAA to Boeing, dated October 12, 2022. In it, the agency said some reviews could not be completed “due to missing and incomplete information regarding human factors assumptions in catastrophic hazard conditions”.
NTSB investigators have expressed worry in the past that during the initial certification process for the 737 MAX, Boeing and the FAA made false assumptions about human factors and how quickly pilots would react to an accidental MCAS activation.
The two fatal 737 MAX crashes involving Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines between 2018 and 2019 were caused by a malfunction of the MCAS system.
In a statement cited by Reuters, Boeing said that it is focused on meeting regulatory requirements for the 737-7 and that “safety remains the driving factor”.
Other submission dates for the 737 MAX 7 certification review process have also been missed by Boeing. Prior to receiving permission for the larger MAX 10, it must first obtain certification for the MAX 7.
Boeing will be required to install a modernized flight crew alerting system on both the MAX 7 and the larger MAX 10 in order to comply with additional safety regulations under the new Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act (ACSAA), which will go into effect on January 1, 2023, if the MAX 7 and MAX 10 are not FAA-approved by December 31, 2022.
The extension of Boeing’s exemption from these additional alerting criteria is being sought by Congress. Pilots disagree, arguing that in order to help restore confidence in the company, Boeing should instead install the most cutting-edge alerting systems.
The 737 MAX 7 has a capacity of 172 seats and can accommodate up to 153 passengers in a two-class layout. It has a 3,850 nautical mile range (7,130 kilometers).