What’s The Difference Between The FAA And EASA’s MAX Requirements?

After 20 months of grounding, the FAA has recertified the Boeing 737 MAX. Its European counterpart, the EASA, has signaled its readiness to do so at the beginning of next year. While the software updates and maintenance directives are largely the same, the two agencies’ requirements differ in two main operational respects.

Delta Air Lines, Boeing 737 MAX, Ed Bastian
The operational requirements to certify the 737 MAX differs slightly between the EASA and the FAA. Photo: Getty Images

On November 18th, the much-awaited news broke that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had recertified the Boeing 737 MAX. This means that the beleaguered airplane model, now thoroughly put through its paces, is free to fly in the US. Airlines across the country have already begun adding it back to their schedules.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

Close collaboration between the two and Boeing

However, the FAA’s European counterpart, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), is yet to follow suit. Meanwhile, it has indicated that it is ready to unground the MAX in January 2021, after its own lengthy evaluation of the plane comes to a conclusion.

“EASA made clear from the outset that we would conduct our own objective and independent assessment of the 737 MAX, working closely with the FAA and Boeing, to make sure that there can be no repeat of these tragic accidents, which touched the lives of so many people,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement last week.

The two agencies have been working with the same directives for modifications for the MAX, including updates to the Flight Control Computer (including the MCAS) and flight manuals, as well as tests of the Angle of Attack sensors. This means that there will be no differences in software or maintenance upgrades.

Boeing 737 MAX getty images
The EASA will allow pilots to switch off the MAX’s stick shaker. Photo: Getty Images

Stick shaker circuit-breakers and RNP-AR approaches

The EASA’s Proposed Airworthiness Directive (PAD), published on November 24th, is very similar to the one published by the FAA one week prior. Meanwhile, its assessment has resulted in a couple of extra operational requirements.

Firstly, the EASA will allow the cockpit crew to switch off the stick shaker and prevent it from vibrating if the flight system onboard has activated it erroneously. This is to prevent it from distracting the pilots. Furthermore, colored caps will be fitted to the stick shaker’s circuit-breakers to make them more easily distinguishable.

In what is expected to be a temporary restriction, the EASA will mandate that the aircraft’s autopilot not be used for certain types of high-precision landings known as Required Navigation Performance Authorization Required (RNP-AR) approach.

Icelandair MAX
Individual EU countries will also need to lift their ban on the MAX from their airspace for the plane to roam freely over Europe again. Photo: Getty Images

Same training, many airspaces

The mandated training for pilots is, in essence, the same for both authorities. The EASA notes that this may take some time due to the limited availability of simulators, but that the work could begin right away, without waiting for the final recertification announcement.

There is also a difference in how far the two authorities’ mandates reach. The FAA deals only with one sovereign airspace, its EU counterpart with several. The EASA also notes that some of its member states have issued their own restrictions for the MAX to operate in their airspace and that these will need to be lifted for the plane to fly freely across the continent.

Will you fly on the 737 MAX right away following its return to the skies? What do you think of the differences in operational requirements between the EASA and the FAA? Let us know in the comments.