737 Max Cleared for Flight Next Week, European Aviation Agency Says

The Boeing 737 Max will take to the European skies again next week, after two years' grounding.
Brad Bergan

The Boeing 737 Max will receive approval to resume flights throughout Europe next week, after nearly two years of official scrutiny in the aftermath of two deadly crashes — grounding the planes worldwide, said the European aviation safety agency's head on Tuesday, according to an initial AP News report.


737 Max cleared for flight next week, says European agency

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency's (EASA's) Executive Director Patrick Ky said planes will be allowed to fly in Europe so long as they meet agency-specified conditions — and pilots stay totally versed in training.

"It will be cleared to fly again from next week," said Ky during an online event — which Germany's Aviation Press Club hosted, according to AP News.

The planes were initially grounded in March 2019 after two crashes: a Lion Air flight — which went down near Jakarta on Oct. 29, 2018 — and an Ethiopian Airlines flight — which crashed on March 10, 2019, ending the lives of 346 people. Investigators found the cause behind the crashes was a faulty computer system — which lowered the nose of the plane mid-flight in a way pilots could not reverse.

Entire Boeing 737 Max flight system evaluated

The EASA's mandated changes include recertification of the Boeing plane's flight control system — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS — not integrated with earlier 737 models.

EASA published its directives for the Max's airworthiness in November, at which time Ky said the agency's evaluation of the aircraft "began with the MCAS but went far beyond."

Ky also said the agency evaluated the entire flight control system — widening the review to include all elements of the aircraft's design capable of influencing how the flight controls work — which necessitated additional changes.

Air-worthiness of grounded plane was open to public

Also key to the investigation were human qualities, which led to new pilot training standards to guarantee familiarity with every element of the plane's flight control system, and ensure pilots "will react appropriately to typical failure scenarios."

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The drafted air-worthiness directive was initially open for public comment for one month. These were evaluated and integrated into the final airworthiness directive where necessary, said Ky, according to the AP News report.

"We expect to publish it next week, which means that the Max will be cleared to fly again in Europe from our perspective," said Ky.

Boeing 737 Max already cleared in US, Brazil, Canada

Going forward, airlines will need to ensure pilots complete the training required to fly this plane, and also ensure all necessary maintenance and changes are fully completed since the long grounding period.

A few E.U. states will lift their own, disparate grounding notices, in the future.

In the U.S., the 737 Max was cleared for flight in December 2020, after the Federal Aviation Administration approved Boeing's changes to the plane's automated flight control system. Additionally, Brazil has granted permission for the plane to fly, while Transport Canada announced earlier this week that it had cleared Boeing's plane to resume flights this Wednesday.

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