Europe clears B737 MAX for flights 22 months after grounding

 

Posted by Sade Williams

 

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Wednesday that it had cleared the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again in European skies, 22 months after the plane was grounded following two fatal crashes.

“Following extensive analysis by EASA, we have determined that the 737 MAX can safely return to service,” EASA director Patrick Ky said in a statement.

“This assessment was carried out in full independence of Boeing or the (American) Federal Aviation Administration and without any economic or political pressure,” the agency added.

Last September, EASA also performed its own test flights on the MAX in Canada, as part of a recertification process on the grounded planes, which have not flown since March 2019, after two crashes that together killed 346 people — the 2018 Lion Air disaster in Indonesia and an Ethiopian Airlines crash the following year.

Investigators had said the main cause of both crashes was a faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Ky said that EASA would “continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely” as the aircraft moves back into service.

Also according to euractiv.com, all pilots scheduled to fly a Boeing 737 MAX must now complete extra training in a MAX flight simulator.

The training requirement was welcomed by the European Cockpit Association (ECA), the body representing pilots across Europe.

Over the past 18 months, European pilots continuously engaged with EASA to make sure the operational perspective of the line pilots are well reflected in the review process. After the aircraft grounding, we asked for a full and independent review not only of the entire flight control system, which led to the two accident but also of all other aspects of aircraft design and of all factors leading to the two accidents. Pilots also required adequate retraining and proper attention to human factors as part of the RTS process.

Ky assured that EASA would take a more independent approach to carrying out safety assessments in the future.

“It will be a great effort, but more reassuring for European citizens,” he said.

Despite the fresh all-clear for the 737 MAX, it is impossible to tell how many airlines will put them back into service, and how fast, given the slump in air travel demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions across Europe.

 

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