Boeing’s grounded 737 MAX is now expected to start flying again in Europe sometime in the first quarter. The head of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Patrick Ky said on Monday that the grounded Boeing 737 MAX could be back in the air by February 2020.
While approval from the European aviation authority could come as early as January, some national aviation bodies and the airlines themselves may delay the resumption of commercial flights by a further two months, according to Ky.
After EASA gives the MAX the green light there could be further delays
International news organization Reuters is reporting the EASA boss as saying:
“If there are training requirements (and) coordination to be done with, the EU member states to make sure everyone does the same thing at the same time, this will take a bit of time. That’s why I’m saying the first quarter of 2020.”
After having made software changes to the aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) following two deadly crashes that killed 346 people, Boeing has said it wants the MAX back in service by the end of 2019.
Besides damaging Boeing’s reputation and hitting the Seattle plane maker’s share price, the grounding of the MAX has hurt several airlines in a big way. Low-cost Irish airline Ryanair, one of Boeing’s biggest customers, said yesterday that it now expects delays with 737 MAX deliveries to hamper its growth in 2020.
European experts visited Rockwell Collins
The United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the main body in charge of vetting the changes Boeing has made to the MAX, is currently doing tests on the aircraft’s MCAS software fix. EASA is also doing its own tests on the MAX fix that will include simulator testing and actual flights before permitting the plane to fly again in European airspace.
With regards to the European testing of the MAX, experts traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last week to visit Rockwell Collins and study the changes the aerospace company has made with Boeing vis-à-vis the MAX flight control software. While speaking on the sidelines of the agency’s annual safety conference in Helsinki on Monday, Frenchman Ky said:
“There has been a lot of work done on the design of the software.” But he added: “We think there is still some work to be done.”
When asked for a comment by Reuters, both Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe and a representative from the FAA declined to comment.
The EASA hopes to start MAX flight tests in December
When Ky was asked if EASA would require that 737 MAX pilots undergo further simulator training, he would not elaborate on it knowing that should that be EASA’s decision it would delay the MAX return and put a further financial burden on the airlines.
This decision can only be made once EASA has completed all their tests, he said. “It’s really at the end of the process because it’s much more operational.”
EASA is working on completing its software review by the end of this month (November) followed by flight tests in December.