Boeing Confident In 737-10 Certification Without Alerting System

Boeing 737 MAX 10
Credit: Boeing

Boeing is confident that it will be able to certify the 737-10 without flight crew alerting enhancements despite a certification timeline that has the work extending past a late 2022 deadline that would prevent the FAA from approving the design without the changes. 

“We are working very hard with our government stakeholders on options, on how we can make sure that we can certify and deliver the [737]-7 this year and the [737]-10 next year,” Boeing CFO Brian West said during a May 11 Goldman Sachs investor conference. “We’ve got to have visibility to how that plan is going to work out as we head in the second half [of the year]. I do believe that we have ... options where, hopefully, we will all do the right thing, which is get a safe family of airplanes with the right derivatives to customers.” 

Legislation passed in 2020 prompted by findings from two 737-8 fatal accidents, in 2018 and 2019, and related probes into the model’s certification prohibit the FAA from approving new aircraft unless they comply with current flight crew alerting system regulations. Investigations into the two accidents cited pilots’ confusion over a series of alerts and warnings as a risk—an issue that more modern alerting systems help minimize. 

West said the legislation was “never intended to get in the middle of” certifying the 737-7 and 737-10, the last two 737 MAX family variants.  

The two certified variants, the 737-8 and 737-9, do not have an Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System (EICAS), because the FAA granted the company’s request to not include the entire regulation in their certification basis, or list of regulations the designs were required to meet. The scenario means that a variant not certified before the deadline must either be modified to comply with current regulations or granted relief by lawmakers—a move that one prominent U.S. Congressman opposes.  

The 737-7 is closer to approval, but a 2022 sign-off is no guarantee. The 737-10, which introduces several design changes, will not be approved in 2022, meaning something must give with the family’s largest variant. 

A variant with EICAS would be different from the rest of the family, creating pilot training and other cost-increasing headaches for operators. Alaska Airlines has said that if its on-order 737-10s end up with different flight deck systems than its in-service 737 MAXs, it would likely re-evaluate its fleet plans. 

“I really don’t expect us to get to that point,” West said. “[Customers] will make fleet planning decisions if they have to, and there’s other opportunities that they would have. But right now, we just want to focus and concentrate on the -7 and the -10.”

Boeing is betting that keeping the 737 MAX family safer by not introducing differences to some variants that affect how pilots interact with the airplane will win out over improving the safety of one variant.  

“If you have a common operating system, it’s safer,” West said. 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.