The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sent a letter to Boeing saying that its planned 777X aircraft would not receive approval for an important step in the certification process and that the certification would “realistically” not happen until mid to late 2023, The Seattle Times reported.
In the letter, which was dated May 13 and reviewed by the Seattle Times, the FAA cited several issues with the airplane, including an aspect of the electronic systems used on the aircraft that FAA believed was not up to par and an incident during a test flight in December 2020 where the aircraft's nose moved up and down unprompted by the pilots.
The news outlet reports that Boeing said the plane was able to safely land following the incident and the company was able to create a software update to address the problem after engineers did an investigation. However, the FAA voiced its skepticism.
“After the uncommanded pitch event, the FAA is yet to see how Boeing fully implements all the corrective actions identified by the root cause investigation,” the letter said, according to The Seattle Times.
“Software load dates are continuously sliding and the FAA needs better visibility into the causes of the delays,” the letter said.
In a statement to The Hill, the FAA said it “will not approve any aircraft unless it meets our safety and certification standards.”
Boeing told The Hill in a statement that it “remains fully focused on safety as our highest priority throughout 777X development.”
“As we subject the airplane to a comprehensive test program to demonstrate its safety and reliability, we are working through a rigorous development process to ensure we meet all applicable requirements. We continue to communicate transparently with the FAA and other global regulators about 777-9 certification,” Boeing added.
According to The Seattle Times, when the company launched the development of the airplane in the fall of 2013, it aimed for it to enter service by 2020. But the FAA’s letter would push that prospect back at least several years, and the news outlet speculates it might be available for commercial use now as early as 2024.
Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun expressed confidence that the plane would be certified by the end of 2023 at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference earlier this month.
“That airplane, we are still confident will be certified in the fourth quarter of 2023. We've incorporated all the timeline learning that we could possibly incorporate from the MAX recert and the architectural preferences that both the FAA and the EASA [European Union Aviation Safety Agency] has embedded in their regulations,” Calhoun said.