Boeing’s 737 MAX returns to sky for test flights after being grounded worldwide for over a year

SEATTLE — The 737 MAX took to the sky Monday in what will be a series of test flights to evaluate Boeing’s proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the aircraft.

Flight-certification testing for Boeing’s 737 MAX, which has been grounded since March 2019 because of two deadly crashes began Monday morning from King County International Airport - Boeing Field in Washington. The Boeing-owned aircraft flew for two hours before landing at Moses Lake Grant County International Airport in central Washington.

The company needs clearance from the FAA before the planes can fly again, and the test flights, with FAA test pilots, are a key step, according to The Associated Press.

The flight control system, triggered by faulty readings from sensors, pushed the planes into nosedives that led to crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing 346 people.

Even if no new problems are discovered during the test flights, it’s likely to take at least a month to get pilots trained and get mothballed planes upgraded, inspected and serviced. The FAA has to sign off on Boeing’s pilot-training program, and a panel of international regulators will comment on minimum pilot training too.

Boeing said it deferred to the FAA and global regulators on the MAX certification process.

Nearly 400 MAX planes had been delivered to airlines before they were grounded in March 2019, and Boeing has built several hundred more.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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