The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has confirmed that the Boeing 737 MAX is safe to return to service in Europe. The aircraft has now been grounded for almost two years following two fatal accidents of the type occurring in similar circumstances.
EASA has given the Boeing 737 MAX the green light to return to European Skies after almost two years on the ground. The agency revealed that the aircraft had met the four conditions for a return to service that it had laid down. Additionally, it pointed out that its decision was made independently of both Boeing and the FAA.
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Four tests met
EASA had laid down four conditions that must be met before it would recertify the Boeing 737 MAX to fly in European skies. These were:
- The two Boeing 737 MAX crashes were deemed sufficiently understood.
- EASA has approved design changes made by Boeing, and their embodiment is mandated.
- EASA had completed an independent design review.
- Boeing 737 MAX crews were adequately trained.
Commenting on the aircraft’s approval, EASA’s Executive Director Patrick Ky said,
“We have every confidence that the aircraft is safe, which is the precondition for giving our approval. But we will continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely as the aircraft resumes service. In parallel, and at our insistence, Boeing has also committed to work to enhance the aircraft still further in the medium term, in order to reach an even higher level of safety.”
What changes has EASA mandated?
EASA issued an airworthiness directive (AD) detailing measures that must be taken by operators before they can begin flying each aircraft. The AD requires the same physical changes to the aircraft as the FAA’s AD. The seven main actions in the AD are,
- Software updates for the flight control computer, including the MCAS system.
- Software updates to display an alert in the case of disagreement between the angle of attack sensors.
- Physical separation of the wires routed from the cockpit to the stabilizer trim motor.
- Updates to flight manuals so pilots can understand and manage all relevant failure scenarios.
- Mandatory training for all 737 MAX pilots.
- Tests of systems, including the angle of attack system.
- An operational readiness flight without passengers due to the long storage of the aircraft.
There are two main differences to the FAA’s AD, however. EASA allows pilots to stop the stick shaker from continuing to vibrate if it has been activated in error. The agency is also forbidding certain types of high precision landings for the time being. However, this second difference is expected to be a temporary decision.
When will we see the MAX in European skies?
It’s still likely to be some time until we see European 737 MAX aircraft in the skies above Europe. All the work listed above must be undertaken, with EASA warning that operators may face a delay given the air travel industry’s prevailing circumstances in Europe.
Some EASA member countries independently banned 737 MAX operations in 2019. Germany is one example, banning all flights while most allowed ferry flights. These independent bans still need to be lifted, and EASA is working to facilitate this.
We know that Ryanair was keen to start taking the Boeing 737 MAX, while initially eyeing flights with the type in the United Kingdom. However, EASA points out that since the UK left the European Union, it must make its own decision on recertification of the type. Additionally, most of Ryanair’s UK services are currently suspended.
Non-EU operators will also be able to fly the 737 MAX into European airspace. They will need to ensure that their MAX aircraft meet the Safety Directive requirements issued by EASA.
How do you feel about the recertification of the Boeing 737 MAX by EASA? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!