What Will Happen If Countries Don’t Lift The 737 MAX Ban Simultaneously?

Boeing’s 737 MAX has been grounded since March. It almost feels like the new normal. But sooner or later the MAX will get airborne again. The big US airlines seem tentatively optimistic that this may be around the end of the year. But the US and their regulatory agency, the FAA, are just one part of the larger equation. Boeing’s 737 MAX flies into countries and jurisdictions all over the world. Each will need their regulatory agency to tick off the MAX and there’s no guarantee they will simply follow the FAA’s lead. 

There are 376 MAX’s grounded at airports around the world. Photo: Acefitt via Wikimedia Commons.

What will happen if countries don’t lift the 737 MAX ban simultaneously?

The MAX grounding impacts are worldwide

In excess of forty carriers around the world have a combined total of 376 737 MAXs sitting idle. The vast majority of the airlines that have 737 MAXs are based outside of the United States. Each has a local regulatory equivalent of the FAA, which will need to OK the type before it can fly.


In addition, some airlines may plan to fly the MAX into a country which is not a home base for any 737 MAXs of its own. If that country will not allow the 737 MAX into its airspace until it is confident Boeing has sorted out problems with the aircraft, this could pose a logistical nightmare.


Fiji Airways, which has two 737 MAXs grounded, is an example. It flew the aircraft into New Zealand, a nation with no MAXs of its own. But New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority will need to give the aircraft the okay before it can land anywhere there. In a statement, New Zealand’s  Director of Civil Aviation, Graeme Harris said; 

“We continue to monitor the situation closely and analyze information as it comes to hand to determine the safety risks of continued operation of the Boeing 737 MAX to and from New Zealand.” 


It is, in a nutshell, a byzantine maze of regulatory authorities that Boeing must satisfy to get the MAX back into the air everywhere. There is absolutely no guarantee this will happen simultaneously. Indeed, the odds are that the exact opposite will occur.

Who will the laggards be?

The western countries which have an aviation regulatory regime similar to the United States will probably fall into line with the FAA’s position reasonably swiftly. These are countries which enjoy close trading, political, and cultural ties with the United States. They also have relatively similar regulatory standards, frameworks, and a fair degree of inbuilt reciprocity.

The laggards will be countries less aligned to the United States. China is an example. China has a lot of stranded 737 MAXs sitting around its airports. It is also in the middle of a trade and political brawl with the United States. It would be optimistic to assume China will simply follow the FAA’s lead and automatically clear the MAX’s to fly in its airspace.

Indeed, you could expect the Civil Aviation Administration of China to assert its independence. The CAAC has said previously in regard to the 737 MAX they will,

“… adopt a risk-based safety elements evaluation mechanism to conduct a comprehensive and in-depth review of its design changes.”

China is unlikely to automatically follow the FAA’s lead. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr.

You might expect a similar position from Russia, another big nation that is no friend of the United States right now. The role of politics in getting the 737 MAX back in the air in these countries should not be understated.

Being seen to be independent is a factor

Smaller countries will be keen to assert their independence and send a message to their citizens that they are not just following what the United States does.

Being seen to be independent is usually important from a political and cultural perspective. Even allied countries like New Zealand, whilst enjoying close links to the United States, won’t want to appear to their citizens to be the yes men to the FAA.

This will become even more acute as the cultural and political distance from the United States widens. Aviation authorities in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East will want to be seen as conducting their own due diligence independent of the FAA.

And the countries that were most impacted by the 737 MAX – Indonesia and Ethiopia? They’ll apply the metaphorical blow torch to the MAX before they give it the okay to fly again.

Indonesia is likely to go through the MAX with a fine-tooth comb before the clear it to fly again after the Lion Air incident. Photo: Bathara Sakti via Flickr.


All of which makes the probability of the 737 MAX getting back into the skies simultaneously a pretty unlikely proposition. 


If this plays out as we expect, it means airlines operating the aircraft will have to stagger the reintroduction of the 737 MAX as clearances to fly come in. It presents further logistical and financial costs to the airlines affected. 

How long will this last for? You’d have to think even the most recalcitrant country will get back on board reasonably quickly. In most cases, you’d assume the delay might be a few days. Perhaps in a couple of outlier cases, a week or so. But even the delay of a week will send a strong message that a country and its aviation agency is not beholden to the United States and the FAA.


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The author of this article is seriously mistaken. Regulators in other countries will take a much tougher line on this than a few days or a week after the FAA. The FAA, and Boeing, whiffed on the Max big time. Most countries understand this and will take longer to re-certify and will want to distance themselves from the FAA by quite a distance. Moreover there is the whole matter of pilot training. Foreign regulators may very well demand more training for their countries Max pilots. This ain’t over by a long shot!


“The western countries which have an aviation regulatory regime similar to the United States will probably fall into line with the FAA’s position reasonably swiftly. These are countries which enjoy close trading, political, and cultural ties with the United States. They also have relatively similar regulatory standards, frameworks, and a fair degree of inbuilt reciprocity.”

Would be interested to know what countries you are referencing. EASA is not onboard with the FAA. Canada wants simulator training and since Boeing killed off the C-Series and Trump has put tariffs on Canada, they will get no breaks there. China will use the Max situation as a lever against the tariffs, as well. Russia wants to sell their jets, as does Japan.


Just to answer the headline question:

Boeing and the FAA will make US passengers the guinea pigs for the 737 Max

frank thomas

Regulators across the globe have clearly stated they have issues with the 737 Max design; including MCAS. FAA has stated they want to to wait for the “The Joint Authorities Technical Review” (JATR) panel report and act in unison with regulators around the world to bring the 737 Max back online. But Boeing’s CEO is saying opposite of FAA. CEO is saying the return could be staggered. And that FAA’s clearance should come in the 4Q19. I really think FAA should clearly state the FAA’s position on 737 Max return date. FAA has never stated a 4Q19 return date. Only Boeing has said it’s what Boeing expects from the FAA. Like the FAA is Boeing’s lapdog. A quote from the FAA regarding return to service would be very helpful and informative. Thanks


I can’t say I agree in any way with this article, the FAA has destroyed its own credibility so why should ANYONE accept what it says? It has lost its place as the leader in aviation safety. I for one will wait with interest to see what the Chinese say because I believe nothing from boing or the faa. I’m sure the Chinese will tell us why the max won’t be re certified by them, and finally then we may start learning the truth behind the max.
(I am not Chinese by the way)
Boing will still be crying they have made the safest and most popular plane in history, and that any questioning of this is purely political, which is utter rubbish, the plane has a serious flaw, 2 crashed and 346 people are dead. People have a right to question.
I’m sorry FAA step aside, your word is worthless around the world.


Seems strange that there are so many misunderstandings about the Max, the reasoning behind MCAS, Boeing, and the FAA. As evident in the comments.

I agree with the author on many respects on the opinion piece. The FAA has severely damaged it reputation. A result of the cooperate and government culture in the US for the past 15 years. I would guess that China will be the last the re-certify the plane, as i believe they were the first to ground it. What will be fascinating to me is to watch the re-certification domino’s fall. The FAA will re-certify it, followed by I’m guessing Canada and Latin America at the same time or shortly after. Followed by Europe and countries that closely follow EASA. What will really put the FAA in its place will be if the remaining countries follow China and its re-certification efforts.`

MCAS is a faulty software program, and it should have been caught by the FAA, let alone allowing Boeing to cut it out of the flight manual competently.

The MCAS process and reason for being is highly fascinating to me. The MAX is, for all intents and purposes, a fantastic airplane, saddled with fatal software.


Boeing’s decision to install larger engines on an existing wing design has caused aerodynamic instability which, instead of redesigning the wings (which should have happened) they didn’t want to go through re certification. They created a program to counter the aerodynamic design floor. Creating programs to overcome mechanical design faults should NEVER receive legal certification. Once again, big business cheaping out to push a product onto the market without doing the job correctly has caused loss of life & they should be taught a final lesson.
Remove the wings & upgrade them or leave the aircraft grounded indefinitely.


…and in that vein, India today announced that they will not accept FAA certification and will do their own certifying process.



India Will Join Europe In Making Own Validation Of Boeing 737 MAX
Alice Genes
September 14, 2019
India is the latest country to join Europe in making its own validation of Boeing 737 MAX. The…


And what if there’s another incident with the MAX after it is cleared by all the world’s regulators? Will Boeing argue that the world regulators knew exactly what they were allowing back into the skies and are therefore also partly responsible? Why should world regulators take on whatever accountability for a product which is essentially outdated with makeshift design fixes? It’s not exactly as if the MAX is passing scrutiny with ease and with flying colours at this point. If a regulator clears the 737 MAX to fly, the plane is cleared warts and all. This is a big favour to ask of world regulators.

There should not be any disagreement between Boeing, the FAA and other world regulators with regards to the MAX and if there is, the onus is on Boeing to get it straightened out before the plane flies again anywhere in the world.