June 29, 2020 4:00 PM, EDT

Boeing 737 Max Takes Off for Crucial FAA Test of Comeback Effort

An employee works on a Boeing 737 Max 9 plane at the company's facility in Renton, Wash.An employee works on a Boeing 737 Max 9 plane at the company's facility in Renton, Wash. (David Ryder/Bloomberg News)

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A Boeing Co. 737 Max lifted off from a Seattle airfield with a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration pilot on board, the first of several flights to test whether the revamped jetliner is safe following two deadly crashes.

The Max 7 took off from Boeing Field at about 9:55 a.m. local time June 29 and is scheduled to return about three hours later, according to its flight plan. Using call sign BOE701, the plane is flying maneuvers over central Washington state.

The so-called certification flight is a milestone toward ending a grounding imposed worldwide in March 2019 after the accidents killed 346 people. The FAA plans to put the jet, bristling with monitoring equipment, through a comprehensive examination, said a person familiar with the matter, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the details.

Among the flying planned is the infamous “wind-up turn,” a steep turn that essentially approaches a stall, with wings approaching 90 degrees of bank. Doing so should trigger the Boeing software system that played a role in both crashes, repeatedly pointing the aircraft’s nose downward until pilots lost control.

“The certification flights are expected to take approximately three days,” the FAA said in a statement. “While the certification flights are an important milestone, a number of key tasks remain. The FAA is following a deliberate process and will take the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing’s work.”

Boeing jumped 9.8% to $186.72 shortly after takeoff, the most on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after climbing as much as 10% on news that the fight FAA flight was slated for June 29.

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