After US regulator, EU aviation body to test-fly Boeing 737 MAX

Wednesday, Jul 22, 2020


–EU aviation body: Working with Boeing, US regulator on 737 MAX issue 
–Agency's 737 MAX test flights delayed due to COVID 
–Undertaking independent review of Boeing 737 MAX


By Dev Kachari


NEW DELHI – With US civil aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration recently concluding its certification flight tests of the Boeing 737 MAX, its counterpart across the Atlantic, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, has said it remains committed to conducting its own set of flight tests of the aircraft. 


The European regulator, which had planned to conduct test flights of the Boeing 737 MAX earlier this year, had to delay its plans due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


"We still plan to carry out our own test flights, in full coordination with Boeing and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). The EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) flights have not yet taken place. Scheduling has been hampered by the COVID-19 related travel restrictions. We are working with Boeing and the FAA to try to find a solution," Janet Northcote, head of communication of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, said in an e-mail response to Cogencis. 


Completion of the certification process of the Boeing 737 MAX is crucial for India's SpiceJet Ltd, whose 13 MAX aircraft are currently unable to carry out flight operations due to grounding of the aircraft globally. 


Regulators across the words had grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes in March 2019 after an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft crashed, leaving 157 people dead. In October 2018, all 189 on board a 737 MAX 8 of Lion Air were killed when the aircraft crashed into the Java Sea.


The crashes were due to a flaw in the aircraft's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS software, which received erroneous flight data from sensors known as 'angle of attack', a probe had revealed.


Boeing has since upgraded the software, which it claims has additional layers of protection to provide safety from any erroneous data received from sensors. The Federal Aviation Administration's flight tests undertaken earlier in the month evaluated Boeing's proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the 737 MAX aircraft. 


SpiceJet is the only Indian carrier that operated the aircraft before its grounding. The airline had ordered up to 205 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in 2016-17 (Apr-Mar), with 155 firm and 50 optional. 


A go-ahead from the world's two premier civil aviation regulators will be crucial for India's regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, to allow the aircraft to fly over Indian skies again. 


In an interaction with the media in August, Arun Kumar, head of Directorate General of Civil Aviation, had said the regulator would take a conservative approach towards the Boeing 737 MAX issue with regard to its operations in India, and wait for cues from global regulators before lifting its grounding in the country. 


SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh, in an industry webinar on Jun 16, said Boeing had indicated to the airline that the certification of the aircraft would be completed by August. That timeframe, however, is now expected to be stretched. 


In a statement released on Tuesday, Federal Aviation Administration said it would not speculate when the certification process of the Boeing 737 MAX would be completed.


"The agency continues to follow a deliberate process and will take the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing's work. We will lift the grounding order only after FAA safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards," the regulator said in a statement.


At 1507 IST, shares of SpiceJet were 0.8% lower at 47.50 rupees on the National Stock Exchange.  End


IST, or Indian Standard Time, is five-and-a-half hours ahead of GMT


Edited by Avishek Dutta


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