European Regulators Give Boeing 737 Max a Green Light to Return to Service

By Paul Riegler on 26 November 2020
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The   European Union Aviation Safety Agency, the European regulator that is responsible for certification, regulation, and standardization of aviation for all EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, said it intends to allow the beleaguered Boeing 737 Max to return to the skies.

The agency said it was “its intention to approve the aircraft to return to Europe’s skies within a matter of weeks.”

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on the Boeing 737 Max last Wednesday.

The move by European regulators comes some 20 months after the troubled 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 following two hull losses that resulted in the deaths of 364 people, namely those of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The action by EASA doesn’t call for any software or technical differences between 737 Max aircraft operated by U.S. airlines and those based in the 32 countries governed by the agency’s rules, but EASA is calling for two procedural differences.  The agency said it is also working with Boeing on design changes that will be implemented down the road.

The directive from the European regulator calls for flight crews to silence the stick shaker alert warning the cockpit of a possible staff by pulling a circuit breaker in the overhead panel, which will require flight crews to be instructed on which breaker to pull.  Canadian regulators also plan to require this, while the FAA explicitly rejects this option, stating that the upgraded flight controls in the Max make such a procedure unnecessary and that it could also lead to distractions in the cockpit.

The stick shaker warns the flight crew of a potential engine stall by making the control column vibrate vigorously and noisily.  This warning was implicated in the two 737 Max hull losses, when it was set off erroneously by a false reading from an angle-of-attack sensor.

EASA will also require, at least for the time being, that 737 Max flight crews not use the aircraft’s autopilot for certain types of high-precision landings.

Multiple European airlines were forced to ground the 737 Max at that time, including Icelandair, Norwegian Air, and TUI, as were three U.S. carriers, namely American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.  Across the globe, 59 airlines grounded 387 of the Max planes including Air Canada, Air China, Turkish Airlines, and WestJet.

“We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations,” said David Calhoun, Boeing’s CEO. “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.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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