By Eric M. Johnson and David Shepardson
A Boeing Co 737 MAX is set to take off on Monday around 1 p.m. EDT (1000 PDT/1700 GMT) from a Seattle airport on the first day of certification flight testing with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration test pilots, a crucial moment in its worst-ever crisis, company and government officials confirmed.
Boeing Flight 701 is scheduled to depart from Boeing Field and land two hours later at Moses Lake airport, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. The plane is then scheduled to depart Moses Lake soon afterward, arriving back in Seattle at 1:22 p.m. PDT.
Boeing shares were up 7.4% at $182.61 on the news.
Reuters first reported the long-awaited certification test flights were set to start on Monday and expected to last three days. The FAA told U.S. Congress on Sunday the flights will evaluate “Boeing’s proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the 737 MAX.”
The email Sunday noted that the “FAA has not made a decision on return to service” and has a number of additional steps. Boeing’s best-selling 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal crashes killed 346 people.
After the flights are completed, the FAA must still approve new pilot training procedures, among other reviews, and would not likely approve the plane’s ungrounding until September, sources said.
If that happens, the jet is on a path to resume U.S. service before year-end, though the process has been plagued by delays for more than a year. Boeing in recent months had to address additional software issues and agreed to move wiring bundles that the FAA said posed a potentially dangerous issue.