Players in the aviation industry remain concerned as the rift between the US and the EU widens over the topic of Boeing 737 Max’s return to the sky. This issue has been contentious ever since the tragic crash of two Boeing 737 Max’s a few months ago.
The aviation regulators of both the US (Federal Aviation Administration) and the EU (European Aviation Safety Agency) had asked for intense safety checks before the airline could be certified to operate again.
But as the two regulators fail to reach a consensus about the requisite safety features, Boeing faces a long wait to resume operations. Along with the airline, thousands of passengers are expected to bear the brunt of this delay due to limited airline carrier options.
Lack of trust could be the source
The cause for the delay could be traced to EASA’s lack of trust in the FAA. Earlier this year, the US regulator had signed-off on the 737 Max’s new software installation – the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System. However, it was this system that caused the crash of Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines’ plane in March 2019.
The software impacted the functioning of the aircraft’s sensor and contributed to the flight’s operational challenges. In fact, the crash of Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 too was traced to the faulty sensor.
To ensure Boeing’s complete adherence to safety, EASA has ordered an independent review (among other checks) of the aircraft’s safety systems. This is expected to take more time to complete, which means that the 737 Max will be on the ground much longer.
US’s FAA too has its own checks going on currently. They are working with other civic aviation regulators across the world to analyze the Boeing’s ability to return to the air.
According to reports, the FAA is expected to give its clearance by mid-November 2019. However, their failure to work with the EASA is creating massive hurdles in certifying the 737 Max.
Even if the FAA gives the go-ahead, all Boeing 737 Max operators will still have to steer clear of EU airspace until EASA gives the green light too. This is expected to increase travel times tremendously for international travelers.
Body design changes are the meat of the contention
Boeing has proposed a list of changes that it will incorporate in its next line-up of 737 Max aircraft. These changes include a completely redesigned flight control computer and a new aircraft sensor architecture among other changes.
The new designs will address each of the technicalities that caused the two crashes. However, EASA still isn’t satisfied with the plans and has asked Boeing to come up with better solutions to deal with the angle-of-attack issues.
EASA has also asked the aircraft to take account of other operational and human requirements. Things like in-flight software changes and pilot & cabin crew disaster training too will be evaluated by the regulator.
Boeing 737 Max planes will also need to undergo speed tests, performance tests, and disaster tests to prove their integrity and safety. Only once the flights successfully pass EASA’s scrutiny will they receive certification to resume operations.
Till then, airlines and travelers will need to make peace with the delays and cancellations that may plague the US and EU airspace.