EASA Insists On Testing Boeing 737 MAX Itself Before Lifting Ban

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has said it will not take the FAA’s word that the 737 MAX is safe to return to service. The watchdog is instead insisting that it runs its own tests, including safety assessments and flight testing for one full week.

EASA 737 MAX
The EASA wants to do its own tests on the 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

In a recent presentation by Patrick Ky to the European Parliament’s transport committee, the EASA chief revealed a list of four conditions which would have to be met before EASA would allow the MAX to fly again. He noted that the FAA now finds itself in a “very difficult situation”, indicating that the hierarchy between certification authorities and the US agency may be forever changed, saying,

“It is very likely that international authorities will want a second opinion, or a further opinion … It was not like this a year ago.”

The four conditions

The EASA has made clear it will not accept the US verdict on the safety of the 737 MAX. Instead, it plans to run its own tests on the aircraft before allowing it to fly.

EASA 737 MAX
EASA outlined four conditions to be met before the MAX would be allowed to fly. Photo: Boeing

In detail, the four conditions are:

  • No delegation: Design changes proposed by Boeing need to be EASA approved
  • A broader review: EASA wants an “additional and broader independent design review” to be conducted by EASA
  • A full understanding: EASA wants to be sure that both crashes are fully understood
  • Training for crew: The agency demands all Boeing 737 MAX flight crews are adequately trained

As well as this, EASA wants Boeing to demonstrate the stability of the MAX during unusual and extreme maneuvers, both with the updated MCAS in operation and with the system switched off. There are also plans in the pipeline for a full week of flight testing in Boeing’s simulators by EASA representatives.

An unprecedented level of effort

As part of the presentation, Ky outlined what had been achieved so far, and what was still yet to be done.

Ky described how EASA has been working alongside Boeing and the FAA throughout the investigation, a task which EASA has described as an “unprecedented level of effort.” Among other things, the agency has described this as involving 20 multi-disciplinary experts on their side, 2-3 weekly web-based meetings with Boeing and the review of more than 500 documents and actions.

EASA 737 MAX
The European agency says there is still no appropriate response to Angle of Attack integrity issues. Photo: Boeing

Already, EASA has set out requirements for simulator and flight evaluation of the aircraft. On May 22nd, the agency communicated 70 test points for evaluation, covering both normal and abnormal operations.

EASA are not satisfied with progress so far. While it notes a level of satisfaction with changes to the flight control computer architecture and that improved crew procedures and training were a work in progress, it states there is “still no appropriate response to Angle of Attack integrity issues.”

How will this affect the return to service date?

The tough stance by the European authority will come as a blow to Boeing, who still maintains high hopes of getting the jet back into service this side of the New Year. The FAA could still approve the aircraft to fly as early as October, as Boeing is hoping, but this would only allow it to fly domestically in the US.

Even more notable, however, is the notion that other regulators will no longer bow to the FAA on safety issues. In the past, aviation regulators typically follow the lead of others, in particular the FAA, but it seems international confidence has been shaken, perhaps irreparably.

Boeing 737 MAX
The IATA is concerned by the lack of unity among regulators. Photo: Boeing.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had expressed concern regarding a lack of unity in international regulation. Director general, Alexandre de Juniac is quoted as saying,

“With the 737 MAX we are a bit worried … because we don’t see the normal unanimity among international regulators that should be the case … We see a discrepancy that’s detrimental to the industry”

In response, the FAA emailed a statement to Reuters, which stated that “each government will make its own decision to return the aircraft to service based on a thorough safety assessment.”

While the timeline for the MAX’s return to service remains uncertain, operators are continuing to remove it from schedules into the New Year. It remains to be seen whether the international regulatory community can come to a consensus ahead of the year end.

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Frank

Yup – you knew this was coming. US passengers are going to be guinea pigs for the FAA and Boeing, while the rest of the world waits and watches. Remember – 90% of Boeing’s order book is overseas and they need the rest of the world to make this profitable.

They have really stepped in it…

Dan Maze

To pass the EASA design review, the MAX will have to fly stable in the full flight conditions envelope without software support, as per requirements published on their website. I am almost sure that the MAX cannot… And even if it can, Boeing will never be able to fulfill the request about mechanical backup control of the stabilizer in an economical sense. The wise guys at Boeing knew that from beginning, they keep delaying the unavoidable end of the 737 program so hard, it might ruin the whole company. Hoping for a wonder, political intervention or whatever, because Boeing is… Read more »

Shapes

I agree totally, I don’t think it will pass the EASA flight test, and I think boing and EASA know this too. EASA have deliberately highlighted (and rightly so) a flying parameter the max cannot achieve.
It will be interesting to see when the first max operating airlines start going bust over this, they cannot keep going under the present losses and fees for storage and maintenance being incurred.

K.P.

So, you think its OKAY for EASA to come up with a flight parameter that NO AIRLINE will ever put their aircraft through SPECIFICALLY meant to fail an airplane and keep it grounded. Sounds like you don’t give a darn about safety. I just love AIRBUS trolls who just want to see Boeing go under. Can’t wait for an Airbus to crash so we can all gleefully gloat about those poor souls who died due to Airbus failure, ground all their planes, make em pay, etc. etc . etc I just hope you all live in Europe where they will… Read more »

Dan Maze

This parameter – force of manual trim control after auto-trim cutoff, at speeds beyond 240kts IAS, forced two planes to crash. In my opinion it is valid, to demand this important link of the chain of factors caused 346 people to die, to be corrected.

Shapes

Kp It is easy to see these comments as anti boing, but I don’t recall any such sentiment prior to the max crashes. Boing has always been seen as a well respected manufacturer of aircraft, but their conduct during this saga has not done themselves any favours, all we see is arrogance. They have destroyed their own reputation and that of its dedicated workforce.

HeloMech

*Boeing! How hard is it to find the E on your keyboard?

shapes

They don’t deserve the capitol B or the e, so i’ll stick to boing if it’s all the same to you.

Fly_Eagles

You really are stupid, or do you think passengers all over the World should pay for the corruption in both Boeing and the FAA?

Name

to move that engines so far in front of the wing ( to make it fit) was a desperate try to catch up to the NEO.
after the first flight tests it was clear that the 737 MAX cant fly like others
wrong CoG
strong pitch up
aerodynamical attitudes far from the norm

they should have stopped it at that time (2015) and put all energie and motivation in the development of the NSA.

the MAX is doomed

Tony V

Maybe not doomed, but you’re right. They came up with a hardware hack to mount the engines, then added a software hack to cover up the hardware hack. Unreal.

E Berlin

I couldn’t agree more.

Smokerr

The Verbiage of ” Bow to the FAA is unacceptable. ” There is a mutual agreement in place (legal) that ensures that what EASA accepts is automatically accepted per the FAA and the other way as well as are Japan. No question the FAA dropped the ball big time and Boeing culpability so they bought it on themselves. While the agreement is legally binding, public opinion supersedes that legal or not – so the EASA is stating its own requirements and do their own testing. Frankly it should be that way anyway. The idea was not to have duplicate costs.… Read more »

Frank

“The FAA proved it could not be trusted.”

What makes you think they can be trusted now and that what they suggest is not just a band aid?

K.P.

Because the WHOLE world is watching and EASA (bunch of Airbus cronies) all get to see the testing and comment on it. IF it was just a band-aid, don’t you think they would speak up about it?

Frank

Right – now blame the regulators who weren’t part of the original certification, but are being thorough after two crashes. Well done.

Ravioliollie

A very good point. Here is just another slant on this debacle. In the land of authoritarianism, nationalism comes into play. Classic nationalistic backlash against the rest of the world. FAA just might certify this bird, but kudos to the rest of the world in denying this bird to ever fly again. 346 people who trusted Boeing albeit indirectly are gone with loved ones left to grieve.

Caroline

Boeing 737 Max also has a huge issue issue with pilots’ training.Especially with the training of foreign pilots outside the US whose mother tongue is not English.Thousands of them since some airlines ordered 5000 Boeing 737 Max aircrafts.

WordsMatter

‘EASA wants to be sure that both crashes are fully understood’. Yes, I would think so! It could mean the MAX won’t be allowed to fly until both final crash reports have been completed, assessed and all issues in the report findings conclusively addressed. If it takes a full year to complete the final Ethiopian crash report, it could mean that the MAX remains grounded until well into next year. For Boeing not to appear to be taking shortcuts with their fixes, they should have been the ones to require the final crash reports before they deemed it possible to… Read more »

Kevin

I, for one, am glad that EASA is standing up to Boeing and the FAA. The FAA’s Boeing problem is well documented. Additionally the FAA suffers from its dual mandate of promoting aviation and ensuring aviation safety. NTSB has been swimming upstream of this for decades. Moreover Boeing has a clear profit motive for clearing the Max to fly, so their trustworthiness is suspect at best. At worst, well…

I say to EASA “You go boys!” Make Boeing prove the Max is airworthy and safe.

Jim

Just a note: Congress removed the dual mandate 20 years ago. The only mandate today for the FAA is safety.

Caroline

That ‘s very good for passengers from all over the world! As we cannot rely on FAA anymore ,Europe Aviation Safety Agency is the only one left for us to trust for aircrafts’safety.
It would be interesting to learn that the FAA has certified the Boeing 737 Max as safe but the EASA not safe.
Who do you think passengers will trust?

WordsMatter

IMHO something that does not appear to be accepted by Boeing is that they will not be able to regain universal trust if they cannot unequivocally admit and own the full scope of their errors regarding the MAX design and also their actions in the face of the crashes. It’s either that and dealing with the additional consequences or it’s forever having lost credibility, standing in aviation, former autonomy and even Boeing’s future existence. People and regulators outside of Boeing and the FAA cannot be sure that Boeing is fixing all that is wrong if Boeing won’t be perfectly honest… Read more »

Frank

But if Boeing does that (I’m sure they’re lawyers have told them) then the potential liability they open themselves up to would be huge. Catch-22

Ade Ebimomi

Would it not be better for Boeing to face a huge potential liability for coming out honestly and admitting their culpability than to live in denial and cause just one more crash, knowing that if another Max should crash as a result of the MCAS issue, that would fully and totally kill Boeing as a going concern?

Shapes

There are reports of employees being pressured to cut corners to design the max in order to save money.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2019/07/29/ex-boeing-engineer-says-workers-were-pressured-to-keep-costs-down-amid-737-max-grounding/
It seems a lot of “negative” search results are filtered out.
Just try “how many 737max orders have been cancelled?” and see if you get a straight answer.

Herman Anderson

I wouldn’t expect it to be handled differently given what happened with the crashes and rightfully so. One would observe how the stabilization problems with the A320 program is handled if it is more severe than first reported.

Mark O

This seems useful- “There are also plans in the pipeline for a full week of flight testing in Boeing’s simulators by EASA representatives”. Why not use a real airplane?

Plane Mad

Way too risky for test pilots and people on the ground!

K.P.

So, I wonder, can we get those Airbus A320’s to conform to the same tests, I mean if its safety and NOT politics , EASA and AIRBUS have the same boss. And hopefully the FAA will NOT accept any EASA certifications in the USA and make them go through some test we can come up with.

WordsMatter

It doesn’t seem as if Boeing and the FAA think the EASA requirements are unreasonable given the MAX’s history. Also, looking for faults in the competitor’s product is not going to make resolving the MAX’s faults any easier. The last thing Boeing needs now is to come across as being dismissive of the MAX’s faults.

Frank

When 2 airplanes of the same type are flown into the ground, against the pilots wishes who cannot save the aircraft – and the manufacturer does not tell the pilots about software it installed….sure! Ground them all and check it with a fine tooth comb.

Plane Mad

No, EASA and AIRBUS do not have the same boss. EASA is comprised and representing 30 countries. EASA is a Dutch registered company with German, French, British and UK governments holding some of its stock. And I am not sure that the Brits are still holding their stocks

Ron

I am so glad EASA is standing up for the flying public — and rightly so.

Ravioliollie

Appease the stock holders @ Boeing. Putting lipstick on an (outdated) pig, overpower it and move the c.o.g to the outer limits making it un air worthy and then use software to remedy a bad situation. How many dead???? This a/c should never again touch the sky.

Richard

The FAA is bought and paid for by Boeing. I would never trust either one them ever again, every plane Boeing has ever made has always had something go wrong with it. they clearly cannot be trusted, there have been to many cover-ups and just to many lies and deceitful practice its unacceptable. thank God EASA has stepped in its about time some over country has said Boeing and FAA cannot be trusted anymore.

Arthur Babbington

The culture that spawned the the design and certification of the MCAS system was well entrenched long before the 737 max issue came, so tragically, to the worlds attention. The era of in-house or self certification saw a new breed of engineer emboldened with an open palette of computer design with advanced materials and the freedom to explore the limits of their craft unconstrained by regulators. The FAA was in a poor state with under funding, lack of expertise and staffing and, had divested much of their responsibility to industry through in-house certification. In this climate traditional, conservative modelling that… Read more »

Zaki

In life, check and balance is always better and we ought to welcome it.

Michael Sheargold

This should be welcomed news for everyone in aviation and the flying public! Personally I’m feeling far more confident that EASA is doing a broader review – one of my big concerns has been Boeing & FAA have been extremely focused on MCAS almost as if taking focus off other aspects of design. If the size of oversight on the MCAS system is in place, then it’s totally appropriate for EASA to explore the rest of the design. And of course stress test the 737 Max with and without MCAS active – for me there’s still too much simulator in… Read more »

Shapes

The focus on MCAS was I’m sure the “quick fix” boing pushed at the beginning as merely a software tweak, bringing the max back in the air in a few months. However it seems boing didn’t expect to be questioned on what it said, we must also remember that boing are cautious to admit anything in the wake of all the investigations and cases being brought against them. MCAS seems to have had its purpose clouded to lessen its importance, now the wording tries to convince us that it is not an anti stall system but is just to make… Read more »

Shapes

“Forkner”……..
here’s a name we will all become familiar with….

Frank

Yup – read the Seattle times article. 5th amendment….hmmmmmm

Uzi Lowenthal

I have a funny feeling now that the faa and Boeing now have to answer to the European aviation authorities.. it will be quite some time before the 737max will be serving airlines again.

Uzi Lowenthal

737max

Frank

So there is other breaking Boeing news: Seattle Times is reporting that “Former Boeing official subpoenaed in 737 MAX probe won’t turn over documents, citing Fifth Amendment protection A former Boeing official who played a key role in the development of the 737 MAX has refused to provide documents sought by federal prosecutors investigating two fatal crashes of the jetliner, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Mark Forkner, Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the MAX project, invoked the privilege in response to a grand jury subpoena issued by U.S. Justice Department prosecutors looking into the design and certification of… Read more »

Donald Best

From the original 707 Jetliner and on, I’ve trusted Boeing since 1964 to safely deliver me, and then my family, anywhere in the world. Those days are truly gone forever now. The revelations about the deliberate choices that Boeing made during the 737Max design and certification process – and the company’s incestuous relationship with the FAA during the testing and approvals process – mean that I will never again trust either Boeing or the FAA. Several years from now I may resume flying on Boeing 737Max aircraft but it will always be a second choice and never to be fully… Read more »

Chief_Engineer

It’s actually sad that a company like Boeing has developed into a company that values shareholders more than the safety of the passengers and pilots flying their airplanes. FAA has also utterly screwed up. While the rest of the world used to follow FAA in pretty much any manner, this has changed probably forever. FAA has clearly showed the rest of the world that they have been utterly negligent and to a certain level even incompetent with respect to the certification process of the Boeing 737 MAX. Most people, and most media, think that the MCAS is actually an anti-stall… Read more »