The Boeing 737 MAX may be able to take to European skies as soon as January after the EU’s air safety regulator began the process Tuesday to recertify the plane.
US regulators last week cleared the aircraft as safe after corrections were made to its flight handling system, ending a 20-month grounding imposed following two fatal crashes that plunged Boeing into crisis.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Tuesday published a proposed airworthiness directive that lays out the conditions for the aircraft’s return to service.
The publication of the document opens up a 28-day consultation period and EASA will then consider any comments before issuing a final decision.
However, EASA made clear that it believed the aircraft is ready to return to the skies after having carried out its own independent assessment of the 737 MAX.
“Intense work involving the dedicated attention from around 20 EASA experts over a period of around 20 months has now given EASA the confidence to declare the aircraft will be safe to fly again,” EASA said in a statement.
The final decision “is expected from mid-January 2021 and will constitute the formal ungrounding decision of the plane for all 737 MAX aircraft operated by operators from EASA Member States”, it added.
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The agency said it would monitor the plane closely after its return to service to allow for early detection of any problems that may arise.
The 737 MAX was grounded after two crashes that killed a total of 346 people in 2018 and 2019. Both Boeing and the FAA have come under fire in the wake of the crisis, with critics saying Boeing sacrificed safety for profit and that the FAA was too deferential to the private giant.
A principal cause of the two crashes was identified as a flight-handling system designed to keep the plane from stalling as it ascended. Faulty sensor input triggered the system and forced the nose of the plane downward and the pilots were unable to regain control of the aircraft.
US regulators required Boeing to upgrade the system to address the flaw.
The EASA said it was also requiring updates to flight manuals to help pilots understand and manage various situations better. It also wants pilots to undergo training before flying the 737 MAX again.