Boeing's 737 MAX approved by EU flight safety agency

Boeing's crisis-ridden 737 MAX jet was on Wednesday approved from the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to return to the skies, after being grounded for nearly two years, dpa reported. Planned technical improvements to hardware and software, as well as additional pilot training were enough to meet flight safety requirements, the agency said.

"We have reached a significant milestone on a long road," EASA executive director Patrick Ky said. He stressed the regulator's "full independence" from industry or political actors in giving the go-ahead. "We asked difficult questions until we got answers and pushed for solutions which satisfied our exacting safety requirements," Ky said in a statement. The 737 MAX has already received approval in the US as well as Brazil and Canada. 

Before a jet of this type can take off in Europe again, technicians must first have carried out the necessary modifications to the planes, and pilots must have completed the required training. The fleet of medium-haul jets was grounded in March 2019 after two 737 MAX crashes due to faulty software, in which 346 people died. 

The first of the two crashes occurred shortly after take-off from Jakarta on October 29, 2018, and killed all 189 people on board. The second occurred in March the following year, shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa. That crash killed all 157 people on board. In both cases, a sensor provided incorrect data to the software, prompting the nose to dive. Pilots were unable to override the automatic settings. 

The new version of the software is to be fed data from two sensors. "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," Ky said. EASA had also demanded the installation of a third sensor, known as a synthetic sensor, which is yet to be developed.

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