BERLIN (AP) – European regulators on Tuesday took a step closer to re-flying the Boeing 737 Max by publishing a proposed airworthiness directive that could see the aircraft settled within weeks after landing for almost two years due to fatal accidents.
The publication of the Directive by the European Aviation Safety Agency will open a 28-day public consultation period, after which the Agency will review the submission and then approve the aircraft for flight.
He said the move signaled “his intention to approve the aircraft to return to European skies within weeks”.
Regulators around the world grounded Max in March 2019 after an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed. This happened less than five months after another fall of Max, flown by Indonesian Lion Air, into the Java Sea. 346 passengers and crew died on both planes.
EASA’s move, based in Cologne, Germany, follows the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the Boeing 737 Max earlier this month.
“EASA has made it clear from the outset that we will work closely with the FAA and Boeing to conduct our own objective and independent assessment of the 737 Max to ensure that these tragic accidents, which have affected many people, do not happen again.” said Patrick Ky, EASA Executive Director.
Accident investigations in both cases revealed a primary cause for a software function program called the Maneuvering Features Augmentation System or MCAS. According to EASA, its investigation began with a review of the MCAS, but went far beyond that.
“I’m sure we left nothing in the evaluation of the aircraft with the changed design approach.” Ky said.
“Every time the problems seemed to be solved, we dug deeper and asked even more questions. As a result, we got a thorough and comprehensive overview of how this plane flies and what a pilot can fly with Max, assuring us that it is now safe to fly. “
According to EASA, one of the “fundamental problems” of MCAS, which was aimed at making the aircraft easier to operate, was that many pilots didn’t even know it was there.
The Airworthiness Directive seeks to address this human factor by proposing not only changes to aircraft design but also a mandatory training program for pilots, including flight simulator training.
The European directive requires the same changes as those approved by the FAA, so there will be no software or technical differences between aircraft operated by U.S. or European carriers.
But EASA specifically gives flight crews more leeway to intervene to override automatic systems and, for the time being, authorizes the aircraft not to be used on autopilot for certain types of high-precision landings.