In a leaked letter to Boeing, the FAA cites a lack of information, continuing design changes and a flight test incident, to push back certification for the 777X!
The letter is from the 13th of May, and its subject is the issuance of a Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) readiness. TIA readiness would allow FAA personnel to join Boeing crew on 777X test flights, thus starting to collect certification data. It is a key step in the process to certify the jet. FAA’s Ian Won, who wrote the letter in question, suggests that it will take two years to certify the plane.
But this two-year countdown will start when the plane achieves TIA readiness! So realistically, certification for the 777X will come nearer the end of 2023, or more likely in 2024. Such a development could have severe implications, in particular with Boeing customers like Emirates. With this aircraft being the first to undergo certification after the MAX, many expected the process to face difficulties. But that’s not all.
Also, the FAA states that Boeing has been chasing TIA readiness for months, while pursuing the certification of the 777X. But the FAA maintains that the jet is far from ready. Boeing is still planning large-scale changes to the aircraft, calling into question the validity of earlier testing. Key aircraft systems also need to meet specific requirements before TIA readiness can take place.
A Lot Of Work Remaining?
The FAA representative cites firmware and hardware changes, including core systems and even flight controls. This shows that the 777X is still too immature, for certification testing to go ahead. And he adds that Boeing is not providing enough feedback around specific systems, and events. One of the latter was “an uncommanded pitch event” in December, that Boeing sought to address with a software fix.
The FAA seems frustrated suggesting that Boeing is not providing clear information on issues with specific systems. That Boeing has yet to demonstrate that they fully understood this pitch event and how to correct it. The FAA aren’t happy with the promise of a software fix, they want details on it. They also cite delays in the test flight schedule of the 777X, pushing back certification further.
Ian Won wrote:
“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.”
Another pressing item of concern for the FAA is the Common Core System (CCS). This is “the central nervous system” of the aircraft. It is also a carry-over system, from the 787. Its maker is GE Aviation, that supplies the engines of the 777X. However, the FAA asserts that Boeing is incorrectly reusing 787 data in this system.
All Eyes On Certification of the 777X
FAA says that all this is NOT extra scrutiny on their part, in the aftermath of the 737 MAX. This process and the authority’s present stance would have been the same even without the events of the last two years. The FAA is adamant that their concerns on the 777X would have delayed the certification process of any other aircraft.
However, the FAA haven’t yet agreed with EASA on how to proceed with certification of the 777X. EASA (the European Aviation Safety Authority) has previously said that they will monitor closely the aircraft’s certification. So additional scrutiny to the type will come from them, AND the FAA. But this will begin once certification testing is underway.
Boeing officially launched this aircraft in 2013. So if it achieves certification in 2024, the 777X will have taken 11 years to reach the market! And this for certification of a re-winged, re-engined design. This could raise fresh questions (if they haven’t come already) of whether re-developing an existing design was a good idea. And that’s on top of everything we have seen around the MAX…
We have yet to hear from Emirates, about this news on the certification of the 777X. Other airlines may not mind as much about these delays, given estimates for worldwide long-haul recovery. But Emirates needs the plane sooner.