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FAA chief in town to test changes to Boeing’s 737 Max

A Boeing 737 MAX. (AP)

Thursday is a critical day for Boeing’s Renton plant and the effort to get the 737 Max back off the ground. The new head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Stephen Dickson, will be at the Renton plant.

Dickson says he plans to go into a flight simulator and personally test changes that Boeing is making to the grounded 737 Max.

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The Renton-built aircraft is Boeing’s best-selling plane.

The company hoped it would have it back in the air by the end of the year, but there are many questions, and the FAA administrator has made it clear that the plane won’t be back in the skies until he is satisfied.

Dickson also wants to get into the cockpit. He says he wants to fly the MAX himself, and won’t sign off on it until he does so. Dickson is a former 737 pilot and Delta Air Lines executive.

The FAA grounded the Max in March after the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people.

Investigators blame a maneuvering system, known as MCAS, for automatically pointing the jet’s nose down after faulty sensor readings. The system wrestled control away from the pilots shortly after takeoff in both crashes.

Boeing says it has made software updates that will prevent that, but Dickson says he’s going to decide for himself.

He said he is aware of the concern that the plane should not have been certified in the first place.

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“Were there gaps in the process? Are we properly resourced? Do we need to go to Congress and ask for the balance between how much work is delegated and how much work is within the FAA?” said Dickson.

Meanwhile, the European Union, India, and several other foreign aviation authorities say they won’t just take the FAA’s word that the MAX is safe. That may mean more test flights before the jet takes off worldwide again.

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