The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced on Wednesday that it had given its official green light for the return to flight in the European sky of the Boeing 737 MAX, grounded for 22 months after two fatal accidents.
“After a thorough analysis by EASA, we have determined that the 737 MAX is safe to return to service. This assessment was carried out completely independently from Boeing or the Federal Aviation Administration (the American FAA, Editor’s note) and without any economic or political pressure, ”says EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky, quoted in a press release.
The plane was banned from flying in March 2019 after two accidents that killed 346, Lion Air in Indonesia in October 2018 (189 dead) and Ethiopian Airlines in March 2019 in Ethiopia (157 dead).
During the two accidents, it was after having received erroneous information from one of the two AOA angle of attack sensors, indicating that the aircraft was in stall, that the flight control software, the MCAS, had run away despite the pilots’ efforts to deactivate it, and had the aircraft pitched down.
Aircraft must undergo a modification of MCAS software. Other software must also be changed and some cables repositioned and pilots will have to undergo new training, requires EASA.
“We are convinced that the plane is safe, which is the precondition for giving our agreement. But we will continue to closely monitor the operations of the 737 MAX when the aircraft returns to service ”, explains Mr. Ky.
“At our insistence, Boeing also committed to work to further improve the aircraft in the medium term, in order to achieve an even higher level of safety,” he adds.
The US FAA, the primary certification body for an American aircraft, gave the green light for the return to flight of the 737 MAX on November 18, followed by Brazilian authorities.
Canada gave its authorization last week. The decision from China, where many 737 MAXs have been sold, remains in abeyance.
The authorization to fly in Europe for the MAX means that Boeing, stunned by the setbacks of the last generation of its medium-haul and by the Covid-19 crisis, will be able to resume its deliveries to the European continent.
Since it entered service, 67 units of the aircraft have been delivered to European customers, including 19 Norwegian Air Shuttles and 12 to Turkish Airlines.
A total of 723 aircraft have been ordered by 14 European customers – none of which are French -, of which 210 remain to be delivered to Ryanair, 92 to Norwegian Air Shuttle and 63 to Turkish Airlines.
Boeing, officially accused in early January of having misled US authorities during the 737 MAX approval process, admitted responsibility and agreed to pay more than $ 2.5 billion to settle certain lawsuits.