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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.… Read more »

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… Read 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… Read more »

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… 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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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?

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… Read more »

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… 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… Read more »

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… 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… 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 s*****d up. While the rest of the world used to follow FAA in pretty much any manner, this… Read more »