Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson said there's still work to be done before the Boeing 737 Max is approved to fly again, although he added that he liked what he saw.
His remarks came after completing a two-hour evaluation flight at the controls of the 737 Max on Wednesday.
“We still have some work to do yet. My flight today and the training that I undertook, I think gives me an excellent baseline as an aviator, to be able to understand the systems and understand how they are being utilized,” Dickson said at a virtual news conference.
He had promised he would not approve the airplane until he flew it himself and was convinced of its safety after two 737 Max aircraft crashed over a five-month period, killing 346 people.
In both crashes, a flawed control system known as MCAS, triggered by faulty data from a single airflow sensor, repeatedly and forcefully pushed down the jet's nose as pilots struggled to intervene.
The regulator then grounded the plane in March 2019 and Boeing has been trying to have it recertified for use.
Earlier Wednesday, Dickson, a former military and commercial pilot, flew together with other FAA and Boeing pilots from King County International Airport - also known as Boeing Field - in the Seattle area.
During this flight, he tested a number of Boeing design and operations upgrades intended to prevent similar disasters.
Meanwhile, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to reform the FAA's aircraft certification process in the wake of the 737 MAX crashes.
In response, Dickson said “Congress is interested in improving aviation safety, I and the FAA, we're all about continuous improvement.”