The un-grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX is inching ever-closer, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in the final stages of reviewing documents. If all goes well, the aircraft’s grounding order could be lifted as soon as next week.
The Boeing 737 MAX could be allowed to fly as soon as November 18, 2020, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Currently, the FAA is reviewing documents and changes made to the aircraft. The process is in its final stages and it is expected that it will be done in the “coming days.”
“In keeping with the thorough and transparent process that we’ve followed during the past 20 months, the FAA continues to engage with aviation authorities around the world as they prepare to validate our certification decision,” the administrator of the agency Stephen Dickson said in a statement.
“Even though we are near the finish line, I will lift the grounding order only after our safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards.”
In or out of sync?
Regulators across the globe, including Europe’s European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Canada’s Transport Canada (TC), expressed their wish to look at the Boeing 737 MAX individually, rather than rely on the FAA’s stamp of approval. Previously, bilateral agreements allowed the FAA, as a certifying authority, to do the majority of the certification without authorities from across the world deeply scrutinizing the jet.
However, that has shifted. Already in September 2019, EASA executive director Patrick Ky told the European Parliament that the European safety regulator would look at all design changes proposed by Boeing without any delegation to the FAA. A further and broader overview of critical safety systems onboard the Boeing 737 MAX would also follow, something that was previously delegated to the United States-based regulators.
In October 2020, Ky remarked that the still-grounded aircraft was safe enough.
“Our analysis is showing that this is safe, and the level of safety reached is high enough for us,” the executive director told Bloomberg at the time.
EASA conducted its own flight tests of the Boeing 737 MAX for a week in September 2020, in addition to a week of simulator-based tests. Following two weeks of the first-hand experience, the agency presented its findings at the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) in mid-September 2020.
The FAA completed its own flight testing campaign in July 2020.