If Boeing thought the Holiday spirit would make regulators at the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) kinder to them, it was wrong. Based on reports from the continent’s highest aviation authority, Boeing’s 737 MAXs can expect to return to Europe’s skies sometime in the first quarter of 2020 or after if EASA delays its judgement.
The point of contention, in this case, is whether the 737 MAXs are ready and well-kitted with safety equipment to prevent a recurrence of the dreadful crashes that shocked the world last year.
In 2018, Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea within minutes of take-off, killing every person on board. Again in 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed en route to Nairobi, with no survivors.
Both the aircraft involved in the crash were Boeing’s 737 MAX. Investigations revealed the cause of the crash to be the aircraft’s malfunctioning Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software.
Within days of the 2019 crash, both the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the United State’s Federal Aviation Administration ground the aircraft indefinitely, pending further testing and investigation.
So far, the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX has resulted in numerous flight delays and cancellations across the world. While the US is almost ready to get the carrier back in the air, Europe is still hesitant. Vacationers heading out from or visiting Europe may find themselves stuck at the airport because of limited aircraft availability with airlines.
Where does Europe stand regarding the 737 MAX?
A few weeks earlier, both EASA and the FAA had a serious disagreement about the safety tests and technical checks being conducted on the Boeing 737 MAX. In a bid to make zero mistakes, EASA planned to carry out further evaluations and simulations on the aircraft before giving it the go-ahead.
EASA representatives visited the Rockwell Collins Aerospace facility located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to offer suggestions for further improvements to the MCAS software. In an interview, Patrick Ky, Executive Director at EASA, confirmed to Reuters that the European aviation agency was unhappy with the redesigned software developed by Rockwell Collins. Regulators feel more changes are necessary to make it safer and more precise.
Once the MCAS issue is put to rest, EASA will start working on Boeing’s flight simulation and other safety tests. These examinations are expected to take a little over a month to complete, meaning that the MAX will remain grounded during Christmas and New Year.
Additionally, there is still no clarity whether EASA would require all of its 737 MAX pilots to undergo intensive flight tests in preparation for the actual flights. If they are expected to do so, Europe may see a further delay in its re-adoption.
For now, the delay in judgement has left thousands of vacationers worried about their holiday plans. Low-cost airline provider Ryanair, who almost exclusively operated on the 737 MAX, is experiencing immense difficulty in generating the operational capacity needed to offer budget-friendly holiday travel. Travellers are being forced to choose more-expensive options or contend with possible delays and cancellations.