The US aerospace watchdog Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has slowed down the certification of the much anticipated Boeing 777X aircraft until late 2023 pushing the projected date on which the FAA will give the airliner an all-clear for Take-off by months.
This is in regards to a letter dated May 13 sent by the FAA and reviewed by the Seattle Times that warned Boeing has to increase the number of test flights planned, a big blow for the US aircraft manufacturer as it is already a few years late — deliveries were originally supposed to start in 2020.
If you are unfamiliar with the Boeing 777X widebody aircraft, it was first introduced to the public during the 2013 Dubai air show and is Boeing’s newest widebody version of the Boeing 777 airliner. The plane was planned to enter service by 2020 to potentially replace superjumbos like the 747 and the Airbus’ A380 and become the largest airliner in production.
Among the FAAs list of concerns include a serious flight control incident during a test flight on Dec. 8, 2020, when the plane experienced an “un-commanded pitch event” — meaning the nose of the aircraft pitched abruptly up or down without input from the pilots.
The letter also mentions an aspect of the aircraft’s Common Core System, described as the “central nervous system of the plane,” that the FAA found unsatisfactory. The FAA also reports that the system has incomplete data and has not cleared preliminary safety checks. The system apparently was not adequately peer-reviewed, resulting in “inconsistencies and incorrect reuse of 787 data.”
“The aircraft is not yet ready,” Ian Won, the manager of the local FAA office, wrote to Boeing. “The technical data required for type certification has not reached a point where it appears the aircraft type design is mature and can be expected to meet the applicable regulations. The FAA anticipates a significant impact to the level of regression testing, change impact analysis, and the potential to increase the number of certification flight tests that will need to take place.”
Following the Boeing 737 MAX issue which resulted to fatalities and the FAA coming under scrutiny for “babysitting” Boeing, you would expect that this time the US watchdog will be extra diligent especially when a plane is experiencing “pitched events” during a test flight.
Even before the MAX, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was grounded in 2013 when its batteries caught fire in flight. The jet was also grounded earlier this year for a problem with its windshields’ manufacturing process.
Earlier this year, Boeing announced it would delay the 777X’s entry into service until 2023. The airframer has so far lost more than 100 orders of the 777X airliner from Cathay Pacific and Emirates with the latest developments raising more questions on its future.
By Victor Shalton Odhiambo