European aviation regulators will conduct their own tests of the Boeing 737 Max airplane before allowing them to return to the sky, marking a significant departure from historical precedent and normal protocol.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says the earliest that the grounded 737 Max fleets in Europe could return to service is January. That’s assuming its own pilots and tests find no further safety concerns with the airplane.
Both Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have lost credibility in the wake of two 737 Max crashes: Lion Air flight 610, which killed 189 people in Indonesia last October, and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which killed 157 people in March.
Boeing and the FAA initially refused to ground the 737 Max planes after the deadly crashes. Claiming that the planes were safe, suggesting that the pilots were at fault, and being the last to ground the planes may have forever changed Boeing’s and the FAA’s reputation and trustworthiness. In a recent presentation about EASA’s planned certification process for the 737 Max, EASA executive director Patrick Ky indicated that the days when international regulators would take the FAA’s word about aviation safety are likely over.
“It is very likely that international authorities will want a second opinion, or a further opinion … It was not like this a year ago,” Mr. Ky said.
Boeing aims to return the jet to service by the end of the year, once the FAA has tested and certified it. Mr. Ky said the gap between the FAA’s certification and EASA’s would be a matter of weeks, not months.
“So we may end up with a couple of weeks of time difference but we are not talking about six months; we are talking about a delay which, if it happens, will be due mostly to process or administrative technicalities,” Mr. Ky said, according to Reuters.
Much of EASA’s focus will be on changes to the MCAS system, the automated anti-stall controls, and the angle-of-attack or airflow sensors that inform it, both of which factored into the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. As part of the update, Boeing will have the MCAS monitor both of the sensors instead of just one. EASA is pushing for a third sensor because such a configuration would virtually eliminate the threat of a faulty sensor feeding the MCAS with erroneous data. However, Mr. Ky said that EASA is prepared to set those concerns aside if tests show an average flight crew can handle the potential faults.
“We are still looking at the changes made by Boeing on their flight control computers which they did over the summer and early September. We are entering a critical stage in the project where we look at the human-factor issues and how much in terms of workload a crew can take in terms of alarms,” Mr. Ky said, according to Reuters.
Over the weekend, Boeing expressed confidence in its 737 Max improvements saying the updates would ensure such crashes would never happen again.
Two weeks ago, families of the 32 Kenyans killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash received the remains of their loved ones after months of DNA testing. Receiving the remains allowed many families to step forward in their grief by holding funeral services and laying the bodies to rest.
Additional source: Simple Flying