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Boeing 737Max Recertification Progress Keenly Followed in Aviation Circles
Boeing 737Max recertification

Boeing 737Max Recertification.

The Boeing 737Max recertification progress is being closely monitored in the aviation sector.

Boeing 737Max recertification China is one of the most important steps for Boeing since it is a huge customer.

Various world civil aviation regulators including the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have lifted the orders that suspended Boeing 737 Max operations for airlines under their jurisdictions.

FAA cleared the Max to return to service on 18th November 2020. This was done after all the necessary design modifications were made.

Boeing and Airbus have historically been in direct competition with each other regarding aircraft, fuel efficiency, and market share. Boeing’s response to the increasing popularity of Airbus was to take an existing aircraft model and stick more fuel-efficient engines on it. The bigger engines were then discovered to be too close to the ground for safety so they were then re-positioned on the wings leading to the aircraft being extremely unstable and more difficult to fly.

Boeing 737 Max recertification
Photo by Joe Ambrogio on Pexels.com

Boeing wanted to equip their planes with the same engines Airbus use to improve fuel efficiency but there was not enough ground clearance where engines of the Boeing 737 were normally located. Instead of a complete redesign of the 737 which would have been very costly, the think tank at Boeing decided they would bring the Airbus-type engines (CFM International LEAP-1B) forward and up. This, of course, would create a weight distribution problem. The answer? Herein the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) interventions were entered. That is, stick a new software system into the computer and which will take care of it.

Subsequently, the world along with the men who fly aeroplanes came to know about this in a gruesome way and the rest is history. Boeing, a highly reputed company, suddenly saw its credibility crashing down. It now has one of the worst reputations in the airline industry and a dreadful public relations reputation.

Following the crash, the 737 Max were grounded worldwide. It was like an aeroplane graveyard when those planes got grounded. The 20-month grounding was the longest period of inaction for a US airliner. The ground costs for Boeing – USD 20 bn direct and USD 60 bn indirect – were huge. Besides, Boeing was forced to pay over USD 2.5 bn after covering up the Max issue during the development of the Boeing 737 Max.

Overview

A narrow-body aircraft manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The fourth generation of the early Boeing 737 series. Amended the type certificate of the B737 series by incorporating the following major changes.

  1. Dimensions & Area – Same overall length but fuselage length on each of max-7/8/9 is increased 41” with new longer tail cone. Fin height reduced by 4” because of longer nose leg. Wingspan increased by 5” over bended wing tips.3 tons heavier than equivalent NG series.
  2. Engine – LEAP1B engines which are also 385kg heavier than previous CFM56-7 Engines. Engines changes are as below.
DESCRIPTIONMAXNG
EngineLEAP 1BCFM56-7
Diameter69.4”61”
Bypass ratio9.15.1 : 1
Blades18 Carbon fibre24 Titanium
Rated T/O thrust29,31727,300

New struts and fairings are introduced on the wing to hold increased engine weight.

New thrust reversers are introduced. The pressure ratio of the hot section increase from 28: 1 to 41:1 due to new flexible turbine blades.

  • Wings – High gauge aluminum wings have been used in strengthen purpose due to weight addition. Added 3 more leading edge vortilons inboard. Vortex generation pattern changed and Krueger flaps reshaped for nacelle and thrust reverser clearance. New NLFAT winglets reduce fuel burn up to 1.8 over blended winglets.
  • Instruments – Introduction of MCAS, MDS (MAX Display System). Changes in centre main panel, outboard and inboard display units.

Causes for Boeing 737-MAX grounding

Boeing 737-MAX grounding

Boeing 737 Max crash. Two major accidents in the last two years –

  • Lion Air Flight 610 accident on 28th October 2018. The aircraft crashed 13 minutes after take-off putting death to all passengers on board. This is the deadliest air accident involving all variants of the Boeing 737 and also the first accident involving the Boeing 737 MAX.
  • Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident on 10th March 2019. The aircraft crashed six minutes after take-off, 157 passengers died. This aircraft was only four months old at the time of the accident.

Soon after the Ethiopian crash, all the civil aviation regulatory authorities around the world grounded the B737 Max series.

China was the first country to ground Boeing 737 Max. About 30 airlines who operated the 737 Max aircraft were immediately grounded including the three largest customers – Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada. 40 countries led by China, a huge Boeing customer in Asia and other countries like Thailand, Malaysia, India, Singapore banned the aircraft.

The root cause for the accidents.

The failure of proper functioning of MCAS and the malfunctioning of AOA sensors. There was no enough guidance on MCAS or more detailed use of trim in AFM or FCOM.

In February 2020, Boeing notified malfunction with an indicator light for the stabilizer trim system.

Proposed Fixes for the root cause.

FAA has issued mandatory fixes to the root cause of the BOEING 737 MAX. Proposed rectifications are,

  • MCAS Rectification – MCAS must implement fail safe design in which use of two sources of sensing AOA.MCAS must not activate repeatedly and only activates only once. The flight crew is always able to counter the movement which MCAS indicating.
  • A warning light shows to the cockpit that the condition of the sensors.
  • Pilots must get more training on MCAS in Boeing 737 Max simulator.

Boeing 737Max recertification process.

  • Boeing and FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) worked together on the Boeing 737Max recertification process as the main responsible parties for the accidents on recent years.
  • In June 2020, FAA and Boeing conducted a series of test flights. The Boeing 737Max recertification flight is mandatory.
  • Transport Canada and EASA concluded their recertification process in late August 2020.
  • After 20 months of the Ethiopian accident the FAA announced B737 Max cleared to Return to Service on 10th November 2020.
  • FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive specifying design changes that need to complete before the aircraft return to service. Further FAA issued Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) and MAX training requirements. The FAA must approve 737 MAX pilot training program revisions for each U.S. airline operating the MAX and will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all new 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the FAA issued the grounding order.

Furthermore, airlines that have parked their MAX aircraft must take required maintenance steps to prepare them to fly again.

Countries that have accepted the recertification process.

  • After lifting the grounding rule, along with USA, neighboring safety agencies Brazil, Canada beginning of 2021.
  • European countries and the UK have given green for the B737 recertification process.
  • Australia’s Civil Aviation Authority has lifted its ban on 737 Max on 26th February 2021
  • Saudi Arabia has lifted its ban on 737 Max on 28th February 2021.
  • FAA and Boeing had organized recertification flight campaign at China and conducted its maiden test flight on 11th August 2021. Boeing is eager to get Boeing 737 rectified by the DGCA of China that will help them in regain business market in east Asia.
  • Indian aviation authority is set to approve the Boeing 737 max to operate in Indian region again since 2019. The DGCA of India was satisfied by the aircraft redesign and looking forward to work with EASA and CAA on establishing a new simulator for the B737 Max within the country.
  • Currently around 175 nations and 30 airlines have removed ban on B737 Max after redesigned flight control system.

Affected airlines in South Asia.

  • Lion Air and Garuda air were the airlines in Indonesia affected by the ban. Currently, there are 11 Boeing 737 MAX Aircrafts grounded in Indonesia.
  • India – India got only one airline that operates Boeing 737 Max aircrafts on its fleet, which is Spice jet. The airline includes 13 Boeing 737 Max grounded.
  • Singapore – Singapore airlines include affected Boeing 737 Max aircraft and they are grounded in the Australian desert. Silk air also includes six of B737 max in its fleet.

New orders for Boeing

  • Fiji Airways is the first Carrier in the Asia Pacific region to take delivery of new Boeing 737 Max aircraft, after Fijian Civil aviation lifted the grounding.
  • Singapore Airline is expecting to order eight Boeing 737 Max on March 2022.
  • It is rumored new low-cost carrier Akasa air will be considering to order 100 Boeing 737 Max aircraft into new fleet in early 2022.
  • China Eastern Airlines stated in its 2020 results that it expects to introduce 46 Boeing 737 aircraft in 2023.
  • Singapore Airline is preparing to order 37 Boeing 737 Max 8 in to its fleet as a part of Silk Airs (Mi) Integration into Singapore Airlines.

Rivalry with Airbus

Boeing 737-Max aircraft were initially released to compete with Airbus A320Neo aircraft in the Aircraft Business Market. This rivalry is not only for these aircraft types and the competition between two aircraft Manufactures run from the 1990s. But due to the downfall of the Boeing 737 Max due to design failure had hit the business market badly in recent two years. The airbus kept running steadily yet the corona holds the growth of their business either. There may be huge competition with these two big giant manufacturing companies after releasing Airbus A350 new version and the new 737 series in 2030. New B737 would be using composite airframe that structure becomes more lightweight and widening of the cabin will enhance passenger comfortability.

Public sentiments

Due to repeated deadliest accidents that occurred in 2018 & 2019, the willingness of people to fly was becoming low. The people were reluctant to fly mainly on Boeing 737 Max Aircraft and due to the covid pandemic, it drastically went down. As per the research conducting in America, it was stated that about 61.5 of American people would be unwilling to fly in the Boeing 737 Aircraft.

Even though Boeing represented in repaying the devastation caused to victims and other parties people feared booking a flight in Boeing 737 Max. But the same research conveys that the people were felt more positive about the behaviour of Boeing over the past years. If Boeing provides transparency and assurance against the Boeing recertification, people will be able to forget the issue in future. The FAA was a bit late in taking the immediate action of grounding the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. This proves after president Trumps’ administration issued an executive order to ground the aircraft quickly. This clarifies FAA reaction for the grounding of the Boeing 737 was made due to social and political pressure.

Also Read: Boeing 737 MAX Recertification May Not Bring Cheers for Spicejet

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By Virat Kabeer Srinivas

Design Engineer -Structures/Interiors. B.Sc. in Aeronautical Engineering. As a part-time working individual, I am offering services in areas of the aviation industry such as research writing, research-based assignments and articles. Spent a year building energy-saving projects for farmers. My current pet project is working with alternative energy sources. 

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