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FAA Issues Updated Equipment Rules for Boeing’s 737 Max Jet

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 12/6/2019 Alan Levin
a airplane that is parked on the tarmac at an airport: The Boeing Co. 737 Max 9 jetliner stands at the company's manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Mar. 7, 2017. Boeing is holding intense discussions with airlines and lessors for the Max 10X and has "extended business offers" to some potential buyers as it builds a case for the narrow-body jet, said Boeing Vice President of Marketing Randy Tinseth. The decision on whether to launch the plane is expected this year.© Bloomberg The Boeing Co. 737 Max 9 jetliner stands at the company's manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Mar. 7, 2017. Boeing is holding intense discussions with airlines and lessors for the Max 10X and has "extended business offers" to some potential buyers as it builds a case for the narrow-body jet, said Boeing Vice President of Marketing Randy Tinseth. The decision on whether to launch the plane is expected this year.

(Bloomberg) -- In a small step toward returning Boeing Co.’s 737 Max to service, U.S. regulators are revising requirements for how airlines must operate the plane if equipment breaks down.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday issued proposed new rules for airline operations on the Max that adapt to the fixes being finalized for the grounded jetliner. The public will have 30 days to comment on the document, which was posted on the FAA’s website.

Boeing is finalizing changes to a flight-control system linked to two fatal crashes, in Indonesia and Ethiopia, that killed 346 people. The manufacturer is also altering the plane’s flight-control computers after tests showed they were vulnerable to failure.

The company must complete an audit of the software changes and test the revised system in flight simulators with a variety of pilots. In addition to signing off on the redesign, the FAA is also devising new pilot training.

One of the more technical steps in the process is to revise what is known as the Master Minimum Equipment List, which lays out conditions under which an operator can fly the aircraft with a variety of malfunctions. Major breakdowns require that a plane get fixed before flight, but airlines can fly with relatively minor malfunctions if there are adequate backups and repairs are performed within a prescribed time.

Read More: Max Disasters Fuel Outcry Over How FAA Let Boeing Self-Certify

Because of revisions to the 737 Max’s flight computers -- which will be checking each other in Boeing’s proposed new design -- the FAA is changing requirements for how airlines operate if the computer or related functions aren’t working properly.

“This is a positive sign of the measured approach for ensuring the safe return to service of the 737 Max and the thorough approach by the FAA in this process,” Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said in an email on Thursday night.

(Updates with Boeing comment in seventh paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Levin in Washington at alevin24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, John Harney, Brendan Case

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