U.S. Senate Defense Bill Would Not Extend Boeing 737 MAX Certification
In late September Boeing disclosed that the company’s intention was to get an extension to the December 31, 2022 deadline, when a new law would prevent it from certifying the -7 and -10 variants of the 737 MAX without the incorporation of an integrated warning system that would have enormous consequences for operators and potential customers of the variants.
On January 1, 2023, the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act (ACSAA), which tightened aircraft certification conditions following the controversy that opened regarding the FAA’s lax controls over the review and approval process for obtaining the type certificate, will go into effect.
The ACSAA states that any aircraft certified on or after Jan. 1, 2023, must comply with the current regulation on crew warning systems. Boeing created and installed a system called EICAS: Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System. Airbus has its own, called ECAM (Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor).
Both systems are central to the operation, since they provide real-time information on the aircraft’s status and trigger alerts that can lead to the automatic execution of checklists and suggest actions to be taken, thus relieving the crew’s burden. Incorporating such systems implies additional training, something that destroys the 737 MAX’s main sales argument: the seamless -and therefore economical- transition from the Next Generation to the new models.
As reported by David Shepardson for Reuters, the manufacturer’s pressure is not bearing fruit: the latest version of the defense budget bill contains no amendments to address the ACSAA deadline extension.
While, says Shepardson, there are other instances in which such an amendment could be added, the chances are reduced, and the timeline is shortening. With no technical possibility of certifying the planes before the middle of next year, Boeing is depending on either an extension of the deadline to submit the planes as-is or to start incorporating the EICAS system and break the transparent transition chain by incorporating specific training on this new flight system.
Southwest, one of Boeing’s major customers and one of the most tenacious in calling for such a transition without additional training, had said last week that it supported the manufacturer’s idea of not incorporating EICAS because it would create a “difference in the cockpit experience” that would be detrimental to crews. Two different sets of rules for the variants could increase confusion during critical phases of flight.
With approximately 1,000 orders pending for the -7 and -10 variants, Boeing is playing an especially important card in getting the certification deadline extended under current conditions. It is probably one of those times when the future of an aerospace company is not played out at a design table, but at a desk far away from the factory.