Boeing’s bid to see its 737 Max return to the skies faces a pivotal week with flight safety tests expected to begin.

Pilots and technical experts from regulators and the company are understood to be planning three days of tests, possibly starting on Monday.

Boeing’s best-selling aircraft was grounded last year after two crashes killed all 346 people on the flights.

The tests are a milestone for Boeing, but even if they go well, months of further safety checks will be needed.

Aviation regulators grounded the 737 Max about 15 months ago following two crashes – a Lion Air flight and an Ethiopian Airlines flight – within five months of each other.

The ruling triggered a financial crisis at the 103-year-old company, sparked lawsuits from victims’ families, and raised questions about how Boeing and the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), conducted their safety approval process.

The FAA confirmed on Sunday in an email to the US Congress that it had approved key certification test flights for the grounded 737 Max.

The email noted that the “FAA has not made a decision on return to service” and has a number of additional steps to go, according to Reuters reports.

Test flights had been planned for last year, but investigations uncovered an array of new safety issues that have delayed a return to service.

It could take weeks to analyse data from the test flights. But even if this process is successful, further flying, training of pilots, and clearance from European and Canadian regulators will be needed.

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