SEATTLE — The head of the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday piloted a test flight of the Renton-built 737 Max and told reporters, “I liked what I saw.”
Steve Dickson, a former pilot for Delta Air Lines, flew a 737 Max from Seattle’s Boeing Field to Moses Lake and back.
“I made a promise that I would fly the 737 Max and that I wouldn’t sign off on its return until I was comfortable putting my family on it,” Dickson said.
“This is not a publicity stunt,” he later said. “This is simply the fulfillment of a commitment.”
In two crashes involving the MAX, 346 people died after a stall-prevention system pushed down the nose of the plane.
The FAA is now in the final stages of approving a software fix.
After first resisting simulator training for 737 pilots, Boeing now recommends it.
Dickson went through simulator training prior to his test flight.
“I liked what I saw, and I felt prepared. And I think, most importantly, I felt that the training prepared me to be very comfortable in the airplane, and I hadn’t actually flown a 737 in more than ten years,” he said.
Dickson said he will point a few things out to Boeing about how procedures are described to pilots.
Dickson’s flight was not part of the FAA’s official recertification process, which still has a few more steps.
“We’re in the home stretch, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to take shortcuts to get it done by a certain date,” Dickson said. “The FAA and I, in particular, will not approve the plane to return to passenger service until I’m satisfied that we have adequately addressed all of the known safety issues that played a role in the tragic loss of 346 lives.”
Dickson said the FAA is in close touch with overseas regulators, who are doing their own review of the plane.
He indicates they are closely aligned, which is a sign the 18-month grounding might lift around the world at about the same time.
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