Re: I would expect a longer process for re-certification
It certainly does look like corners were cut, to fatal excess. This is why the FBI, Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice are all looking into the matter. The FBI's involvement indicates that there's a high potential for this becoming a criminal matter.
Boeing and the FAA are carrying on regardless of these investigations, not surprisingly I suppose because to react to them would be some sort of admission. Yet it's highly likely Boeing and the FAA are ready to go, and the DoT may then override them.
It also increases the chance that the EASA and everyone else will want to re-examine the certification for themselves. I sense that there's a big loss of faith between Boeing / FAA and everyone else, and a big part of restoring that would be some kind of mea culpa reaction from them. Yet we've seen nothing at all of any substance. All throughout this unhappy train of events the messages coming from Boeing and the FAA have been everything but sympathetic to the idea that they've got this one wrong.
They're not even having the decency to wait for the crash reports from Indonesia and Ethiopia (which are both perfectly capable of producing a good report, and will no doubt seek further assistance from, say, France should they need it to produce these reports). This is especially important because the human factors at play in the cockpit leading up to these tragedies is going to be as important as the technical data gleaned from the FDRs. Unlike the FDR traces, the CVR needs especially careful analysis. This takes time.
So the PR surrounding the return to flight is stacking up to being one great big insult to the Indonesians, Ethiopians, EASA, CAAC, and all the other regulatory bodies. It's purely about getting American Airlines back in the sky.
And even then they might be seriously misjudging the public mood in the US. The return to flight is being rushed, and everyone knows it. Someone produced an app telling you whether your flight was going to be operated by a 737MAX. And everything about the return to flight smacks of a big corporation with problems to sweep under the carpet forcing an aircraft with a questionable (USG is currently asking the questions) certification down the throats of the American public, and doing everything possible in the land of PR to disguise the facts that there was ever a problem, that there's a criminal investigation going on in the background, that the fix isn't based on careful study of the problem (there's no official reports of the crashes yet). This PR effort could easily backfire, and would make criminal arrests even more catastrophic for the company.
Welcome to 21st century aviation safety in America.
Actually, I think the US government recognises the existence of a big problem, and sees a need for a proper fix. Hence the unprecedented investigations by the DoT, DoJ, FBI. Uncle Sam needs Boeing to be solvent and operating properly. If Boeing destroy themselves there's no one to act as design authority for all Boeings flying today, which would ground all of them globally, immediately, permanently. You can see why Uncle Sam is keen to avoid that, and why it wouldn't want to have to nationalise Boeing. Sending in the feds, cutting out the rot and showing the world that things are getting back to normal minus the personnel who have caused these fatal shortcomings is a way for them to gain some trust back from the EASA, CAAC, etc.This still might not save the 737MAX quickly, but it would improve the odds that a slower fix blessed by a reformed FAA would be more acceptable globally.
It's also a way of deflecting attention from the fact that the FAA has been starved of resources by Congress and Administrations for decades, and this is likely the root cause of these tragedies. An emaciated FAA has been unable to restrain the actions of a company run by MBAs, not Engineers, who themselves are fighting for their lives in the cut throat global business of supplying airliners. Who'd have thought the French would be better at it than Boeing?