Boeing began conducting certification flights on Monday to evaluate upgrades to the aircraft's automated flight control system, which was blamed for two deadly crashes that forced regulators to ground the plane, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement.
"The FAA and Boeing are conducting a series of certification flights this week to evaluate Boeing's proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the 737 MAX. The aircraft departed from Boeing Field in Seattle at 9:55 a.m. Pacific Time [4:55 p.m. GMT] today for the first round of testing. The flight is expected to take several hours," the release said.
The series of certification flights are expected to take three days, the release added. The tests conducted by test pilots and engineers will include flight maneuvers and emergency procedures to assess whether Boeing's upgrades meet FAA certification standards, the release added.
The FAA grounded the MAX in 2019 after two crashes - in Ethiopia and Indonesia - that killed 346 passengers and crew. Both crashes were blamed on malfunctioning automated fight controls that forced the planes to the ground shortly after takeoff.
Monday's FAA announcement cautioned that, apart from this week's test flights, "a number of key tasks" remain before the MAX will be allowed to fly again and that regulators will need more time to thoroughly review Boeing's work.
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