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FAA Administrator to Pilot 737 MAX

The Federal Aviation Administration is “putting it all on the line” this week as FAA Administrator Steve Dickson will be the pilot-in-command of a revamped Boeing 737 MAX fulfilling a pledge he made last November to ensure the changes to the aircraft software were done correctly.

“I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself and am satisfied that I would put my own family on it without a second thought,” Administrator Dickson said at the time.

Wednesday’s flight signals that the FAA is getting ready to allow the aircraft to return to flight for the first time since March 2019 when the second of two fatal crashes involving the MAX’s flight control system occurred in Ethiopia.

This is much more than a photo op for Mr. Dickson.  Before starting the aircraft, he will undergo the full training package Boeing is proposing existing 737 pilots take before flying the latest model.  (Before he became FAA Administrator, Mr. Dickson flew 737NG models for Delta Air Lines.)  The training and flight will take place in Seattle, with the primary focus on the behavior of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that was identified as the source of the control problems that resulted in the Ethiopian crash and an earlier one in Indonesia, which killed a total of 346 people.