Boeing's problematic 737 Max aircraft will fly to heaven again after falling to the ground in March 2019 after two crashes that killed 346 people in total.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given Boeing the go-ahead to test the aircraft, and the first flight could take place on Monday, June 29.
"FAA test pilot flights could start tomorrow and evaluate Boeing's proposed changes to the 737 Max's automated flight control system," the FAA said in a widespread letter to lawmakers. "The tests are expected to take several days and include a wide range of flight maneuvers and emergency procedures so the agency can assess whether the changes meet the FAA certification standards."
The 737 Max was grounded within five months after two fatal accidents. The first occurred in October 2018 when a Lion Air flight crashed shortly after taking off from Soekarno – Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 157 passengers and crew. Then, in March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed near Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, killing all 189 people on board.
Crash investigations showed that a fault in the Max's automated flight control system caused the doomed aircraft to dive. Boeing set about developing a fix that has now been implemented. However, several other faults that needed to be fixed were also identified during the grounding of the jet.
Test flights, which are expected to take place near the Boeing manufacturing facility in Seattle, Washington, will use a computer-equipped 737 Max to test the revised flight control system while monitoring the aircraft's response to various other scenarios.
Even if the first test flights go well, further reviews over weeks or possibly months are likely to be needed to convince the FAA that the 737 Max is safe for commercial air travel.
Around 500 Max aircraft operated by airlines around the world are currently out of service, while Boeing has another 400 in the warehouse waiting to be delivered to customers.
Production of the distressed aircraft ended in January 2020 while Boeing was waiting for the FAA to review the Max's design changes. Boeing said in May 2020 that it was ready to build the Max again, albeit at "low rates".
"Safe restarting of the 737 Max is our top priority," Boeing said at the time. “We know that the process of approving the 737 Max's restart and setting appropriate training requirements must be extremely thorough and robust to ensure that our regulators, customers, and the flying public trust the 737 Max updates. "
Digital Trends asked Boeing for more information about the upcoming tests. We will update this article as soon as we learn about it.