While Boeing prepares for the un-grounding of the MAX, the aviation agencies are also doing their homework ahead of the eventual green light for the 737 MAX to fly again. However, one of the agencies is going to approve the MAX themselves, rather than delegating the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to do so.

European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) executive director, Patrick Ky, “exchanged views” before the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism, which was just newly elected in May 2019. Ky shortly presented EASA’s role in the industry and of course, touched a very important topic – the Boeing 737 MAX and the type’s return to service.

During the presentation, Ky officially confirmed that the EASA will individually approve the MAX to fly only after Boeing has met four critical conditions. Firstly, the agency “insisted that any change proposed by Boeing on the resolution of these problems would need to be EASA approved”. Secondly, as the European Union and the United States have an agreement on air safety, the FAA approved parts that the EASA did not oversee. Thus, as the MAX re-enters service, the European agency will do a “broader review of the design of the critical safety systems on the MAX”, which the EASA delegated the FAA to certify back when the aircraft was approved for service in 2017 – a topic, “not very popular with our American colleagues”, according to Ky.

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The European Union Aviation Safety Agency sent a list of five changes to be made for the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again in the European skies. While most of the corrections align with FAA’s recommendations, one of them related to the autopilot might have never been raised before.
 

Thirdly, the EASA will have to have “a complete understanding of the two accidents” and finally, it will require that “flight crews are adequately trained” regarding the changes that Boeing made to the 737 MAX software. EASA’s executive director also noted that the agency is in “regular and in very strong contact” with the manufacturer and the FAA, as every party involved is trying to get the jet back up in the air.

Meanwhile, the FAA expects to conduct certification flights with the grounded jet in October 2019, as reported by the Seattle Times. Boeing stated that the company “assumes” that the 737 MAX will return to service “early in the fourth quarter 2019”. However, during his presentation, Ky noted that Boeing has not implemented changes that would provide “appropriate response to Angle Of Attack integrity issues”, questioning whether the assumption will come to fruition. MAX operators share the skepticism, as they look forward to for flights to resume in January 2020.

The changes to certification show how much the crisis has shaken up the industry, creating a rift between agencies. A recent example of how the agencies still worked together could be the Boeing 787 Dreamliner groundings back in 2013 when the aviation authorities grounded the type worldwide due to issues with batteries and electronic systems. The EASA followed the FAA’s directive and noted that the agency is “working closely with the FAA as the primary certification authority”. 

But when the second 737 MAX suffered a fatal accident, the FAA was not seen as the “primary” agency anymore – Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) was, as it was the first aviation authority to ground the MAX. In contrast, the FAA had “not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions”.

Two days later, the FAA joined the rest of the agencies and banned the narrow-body from operating commercial flights, one of the last agencies to do so. And, as Boeing aims to return the newest 737 family member to service as soon as possible, it seems like the FAA has lost its status as a leading agency, adding further complexity to the last chapter of the 737 MAX crisis.

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Three different authority agencies announced on March 19, 2019, they would each review the safety of the MCAS independently: the Federal Aviation Authority, the European Aviation Safety Agency and Transport Canada. The same day, Boeing and the FAA reshuffled some of their management team.