European regulator to lift Boeing 737 MAX grounding in January

2020-11-22 03:20:17 GMT2020-11-22 11:20:17(Beijing Time) Sina English

Europe is set to lift its flightban on the Boeing 737 MAX passenger jetliner in Januaryafter US regulators last week ended a 20-month groundingtriggered by two fatal crashes.

The head of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)said in remarks aired on Saturday that the 737 MAX was safe tofly after changes to the design of the jet that crashed twice infive months in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people.

"We wanted to carry out a totally independent analysis ofthe safety of this aircraft, so we performed our own checks andflight tests," Executive Director Patrick Ky told the Paris AirForum, an online aviation conference hosted by La Tribune.

"All these studies tell us that the 737 MAX can return toservice. We have started to put in place all the measures," hesaid. "It is likely that in our case we will adopt thedecisions, allowing it to return to service, some time inJanuary."

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

Officials confirmed a draft EASA directive proposing to endthe grounding in Europe will be published next week, followed bya 30-day comment period. After finishing touches,that would lead to an ungrounding decision in January.

How long it takes for flights to resume in Europe depends onpilot training and the amount of time it takes airlines toupgrade software and carry out other actions mandated by EASA.

In the United States, commercial flights are scheduled tostart on December 29, just under six weeks after the FAA order waspublished on November 18.

EASA represents the 27 European Union countries plus fourother nations including Norway, which has 92 of the aircraft onorder. Until December 31, it also represents the United Kingdom,which left the EU bloc in January.

FAA lessons

The crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia triggered a slew ofinvestigations faulting Boeing for poor design and the FAA forlax oversight. They also placed tight-knit FAA relations withBoeing under scrutiny.

"It is clear that there were a number of dysfunctions in(FAA) actions and their relations with Boeing," Ky said. "Iwon't go into details as it is not up to me to do that. The FAAis in the process of putting in place corrective measures."

He said EASA would change some of its own methods and take amore detailed role in analysing critical features in foreignjets. It would also be "more intransigent" about ensuring thatkey safety reviews are completed before moving on to the nextsteps, Ky said. Until now, one primary regulator certifies aplane and others mainly follow suit after varying degrees ofindependent checks.

"What will change is the way in which we validate andcertify Boeing aircraft, that's clear, but will it have animpact on (certification) timings? No, I don't think so; we willdo things differently," Ky said.

Boeing is developing the 777X, a larger version of its 777.

EASA is widely seen as emerging strengthened from the Boeingcrisis and some regulators are waiting for its decisions on theMAX rather than immediately following the FAA as in the past.

FAA chief Steve Dickson played down any differences lastweek, saying there was "very little daylight" between regulatorsand that the FAA worked closely with Europe, Canada and Brazil.