A Boeing 737 Max test aircraft landed at about 2:16 p.m., PDT, June 29 at Boeing Field in Washington State, following the first of a Boeing and FAA series of tests to see if the aircraft is safe to fly.
The aircraft was grounded in March 2019 following two deadly crashes.
The June 29 flight saw an FAA pilot and a Boeing crewmember at the controls.
Boeing stocks jumped 14 percent, to close at $194.49 following the news. Several Boeing suppliers also saw their shares rally. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings were up 17 percent, Triumph Group were up 18 percent, and Southwest Airlines, the largest 737 Max customer, rose almost 10 percent.
Two more days of testing are planned and the FAA plans to put the jet through a tough examination.
Boeing has redesigned the flight control systems, but the test of the revamped aircraft has been repeatedly postponed as engineers and regulators kept flagging additional concerns. If all goes according to plan, the 737 Max will be certified by the United States by September. Ending the worldwide grounding will allow Boeing to resume deliveries. The grounding has cost the company approximately $20 billion.
“There is absolutely nothing more important for Boeing shares than the recertification of the Max,” Carter Copeland, analyst with Melius Research, said on Twitter in response to the Monday testing session. “The cash flow engine of the company depends on it.”
“While the certification flights are an important milestone, a number of key tasks remain,” the FAA said in a statement. The regulator said it was “following a deliberate process and will take the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing’s work.”
Once Boeing is able to restart 737 deliveries, the FAA will sign off on each new plane as it comes off the assembly line – rather than let company employees handle that responsibility. They will also inspect the approximately 450 aircraft that have been in storage since the grounding.
In the meantime, Norwegian Airlines announced the same day that it is canceling orders for 97 Boeing aircraft – including 92 of the 737 Max and five 787 Dreamliners.
“Norwegian has in addition filed a legal claim seeking the return of pre-delivery payments related to the aircraft and compensation for the company’s losses related to the grounding of the 737-MAX and engine issues on the 787,” the company said. The original contract also included GoldCare service agreements with Boeing.