In a huge blow to Boeing, the FAA has privately said that the 777X will not be certified before mid- to late-2023 at the earliest. The news comes after the FAA sent Boeing a letter citing several notable concerns with the plane’s performance during test flights and a host of other changes. With this, the 777X has been denied the next step of the certification process.
In a letter reviewed by the Seattle Times, the FAA laid out several concerns will the 777X’s test flight performance and denied permission for the next step of the certification process, known as the “Type Inspection Authorization” (TIA). The letter indicated that Boeing might have to add several more test flights. This pushes the certification timeline by two years or more.
The letter was clear in its view of the 777X currently, with local FAA regulatory manager Ian Won saying,
“The aircraft is not yet ready…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.”
So what has caused the FAA to deny Boeing permission and issue this sternly worded letter? There are several major concerns, the most important of which we will highlight here.
At the center of the letter is an incident that occurred during a 777X test flight on December 8th last year. The aircraft reportedly suffered an “uncommanded pitch event” during the flight, meaning the plane either pushed its nose up or down without pilot commands. This is a huge red flag for the uncertified plane.
Over six months later, the FAA is still not satisfied that Boeing has understood and corrected what went wrong with the controls on that day. While the manufacturer has reportedly investigated the incident and created a major software patch, this is yet to be implemented. With delays abound, the FAA is unhappy with the sliding timeline for fixing the issue.
Another critical issue highlighted is with the Common Core System (CCS), which GE says is the “central nervous system and brain” of the plane. In particular, the FAA says that the CCS has incomplete data and has not completed preliminary safety checks. Data from suppliers was not adequately peer-reviewed and resulted in “inconsistencies … and incorrect reuse of 787 data.” Without these systems checked and certified, the 777X is unlikely to get its TIA.
In a statement to Simple Flying, a Boeing spokesperson said,
“Boeing 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.”
Dates in trouble
With a long way to go before certification, the first 777X delivery could be well into 2024 as well. Previously, Boeing CEO David Calhoun has said the expectations for the 777X’s certification is the fourth quarter of 2023.
This would match expectations from leaders like Emirates CEO Sir Tim Clark, who said the first plane could take until 2025 to reach. However, it has the potential to upset many other airlines who expect the plane far sooner. Until Boeing clears a whole list of issues and completed a long schedule of test flights, certification seems far out of reach for now.
What do you think about Boeing’s current issues with the 777X certification? When will the jet receive certification? Will airlines wait longer for the plane? Let us know in the comments!