Boeing 737 MAX back in the air

US, EU and UAE lift their flight bans on the passenger jetliner

Photo: EPA

Europe is set to waive its flight ban on the Boeing 737 MAX passenger jetliner in January 2021 after US regulators suspended a 20-month grounding triggered by two fatal aircraft crashes.

The head of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said that the 737 MAX reached an acceptable level of flight safety after changes to the design of the jet type that crashed twice in five months in 2018 and 2019, causing 346 fatalities, Reuters reported.

“We wanted to carry out a totally independent analysis of the safety of this aircraft, so we performed our own checks and flight tests,” Executive Director Patrick Ky told the Paris Air Forum, an online aviation conference hosted by La Tribune. “All these studies tell us that the 737 MAX can return to service. We have started to put in place all the measures,” he said. “It is likely that in our case we will adopt the decisions, allowing it to return to service, some time in January.”

EASA's decision is seen as the most important milestone after the FAA's approval since, as the watchdog responsible for Airbus, it too carries significant weight in the industry.

European regulators gave draft approval to Boeing's 737 MAX, paving the way for a formal flight clearance in January. EASA opened a 28-day comment period, which it said would lead to a formal ungrounding from mid-January, once public and industry feedback has been digested.

How long will it take for flights to resume in Europe depends on pilot training and the amount of time it takes airlines to upgrade software and carry out other actions mandated by EASA.

In the United States, commercial flights are scheduled to start on 29 December, just under six weeks after the FAA order was published on 18 November.

EASA represents the 27 EU countries plus four other nations including Norway, which has 92 of the aircraft on order. Until 31 December, it also represents the UK.

The United Arab Emirates civil aviation regulator also said it would announce a return schedule for the Boeing 737 MAX. “The General Authority of Civil Aviation will issue a safety decision stipulating the technical requirements to ensure the safe return of service for the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, and will announce the schedule for the return authorisation in a timely manner,” WAM cited the regulator as saying. The regulator said it continued to work with FAA and EASA on the process. The UAE carrier flydubai is a major buyer of the narrow-body plane.

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