The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has today (January 27), given its seal of approval to the Boeing 737 MAX, ending a nearly two-year grounding period by allowing the jet to return to the skies in the region.
The regulator has mandated a package of software upgrades, electrical modifications, maintenance checks, operational manual updates and crew training, which once completed will allow airlines to reintroduce the embattled type.
“We have reached a significant milestone on a long road,” said Patrick Ky, EASA executive director. “Following extensive analysis by EASA, we have determined that the 737 MAX can safely return to service. This assessment was carried out in full independence of Boeing or the Federal Aviation Administration and without any economic or political pressure – we asked difficult questions until we got answers and pushed for solutions which satisfied our exacting safety requirements. We carried out our own flight tests and simulator sessions and did not rely on others to do this for us.”
The type was grounded worldwide in March 2019 following the second of two accidents within just six months, which together claimed 346 lives.
The root cause of these tragic accidents was traced to software known as the MCAS (Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System), intended to make the plane easier to handle.
However, MCAS – guided by only one angle of attack (AoA) sensor – kicked in repeatedly if that sensor malfunctioned, pushing the nose of the aircraft downward multiple times. In both accidents, pilots finally lost control of their plane, resulting in a crash with total loss of aircraft.
A Boeing spokesperson, commented: "We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents. These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity. We continue to work with the [EASA], its member states, other global regulators and our customers to safely return the 737-8 and 737-9 to service worldwide."
The decision by EASA follows similar moves by various other aviation safety agencies around the world including those in the United States, Brazil, Panama and Canada.