- Europe’s aviation regulator says that Boeing’s 737 Max is safe to return to the skies. The FAA, which is Boeing’s main regulator, has not committed to a date that the 737 Max will be able to fly again.
- And American Airlines just announced plans to fly 737 Max planes between Miami and New York starting December 29th.
- The 737 Max was grounded in March of 2019, following two crashes that resulted in the death of 346 people. Authorities around the world, including the FAA, have been reviewing the 737 Max’s design and safety features.
- Boeing completed its first recertification test flight in June this year.
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Boeing’s 737 Max, an update to the 737 first announced in 2011, has been grounded since March 2019. Two crashes, during which pilots struggled to control the plane, resulted in the death of a combined 346 people and led to questions about the plane’s design and features.
Since grounding the plane, Boeing has been working on a complete redesign of the plane’s flight software.
On Friday, Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, told Bloomberg that he’s satisfied with the changes Boeing has made to the aircraft. Ky added that the 737 Max could begin flying in Europe before the end of 2020.
American Airlines announced on Sunday plans to fly 737 Max planes between Miami and New York from December 29th through January 4th. The airline said it’s taking a “phased approach,” and has not confirmed whether it will continue using the aircraft beyond that period. American Airlines’ plans are contingent on a green light from the Federal Aviation Administration, which hasn’t yet committed to a timeline for approval of the 737 Max.
Touted as a more fuel-efficient version of the 737 consumer plane, the 737 Max is said to have a longer range, lower operating cost, and enough in common with previous models that pilots could switch back and forth between the two seamlessly.
The crashes called into question Boeing’s training practices, as well. During the aircraft’s rollout, pilots were only required to take a brief tablet-based course, rather than training in a simulator like they would for a new plane.
A so-called synthetic sensor, a software update demanded by the EASA in 2019, still hasn’t been implemented by Boeing, and isn’t expected to be ready for another two years. But the EASA says that the plane currently meets safety standards, and the “third sensor” would meet even higher safety levels.
The FAA is Boeing’s main regulator, and under international law, the 737 Max won’t be able to fly until the FAA allows it. In June, Boeing completed its first recertification flight test, one of many steps required before the plane can return to service.
There are several federal investigations underway, looking into the design of the jet as part of an effort to determine how it was allowed to be certified in the first place and whether there was criminal negligence behind the design. The fallout from the crashes ultimately cost then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg his job.
Meanwhile, Boeing is currently seeking to settle cases brought by the families of those killed in the second of the two fatal crashes. An Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed into the ground in March 2019, killing all 157 people on board.
Boeing has largely settled cases from the earlier October 2018 crash of a 737 Max operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air, where 189 people died.
But the cases brought in relation to the Ethiopian Airlines crash, Boeing is taking a “scorched earth” approach, a contrast to the Lion Air cases, Business Insider has reported.
One lawyer involved in the case says that Boeing’s lawyers were refusing to provide evidence that the victims’ representatives requested. Boeing says that it had taken its obligations to provide evidence “seriously.”
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