Boeing’s 737 Max will be approved to resume flights in Europe next week, the head of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has said.
The aircraft had been under review for nearly two years following two deadly accidents that saw the planes grounded worldwide.
But Patrick Ky, executive director of the EASA, told reporters on Tuesday that the aircraft will receive final clearance to fly as long as they meet the agency’s conditions.
„It will be cleared to fly again from next week,“ Ky said at an online event hosted by Germany’s Aviation Press Club.
The 737 Max was grounded last spring after the fatal crashes of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October 2018, and an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March 2019, which killed a total of 346 people.
Investigators found that the crashes were caused by a faulty computer system that forced the plane’s nose downward in flight and couldn’t be overridden by pilots.
In November, the EASA published a draft airworthiness directive, which had mandated Boeing to recertify the plane’s flight-control system, known as MCAS, which was not a part of previous 737 models.
Ky told reporters that the watchdog’s review of the aircraft „began with the MCAS but went far beyond“, including all aspects of design that could influence how the flight controls are operated.
„We have reached the stage where our four prerequisites have been fulfilled“, he said, adding that „all the factors that contributed to the accidents have been addressed“.
„We have had full transparency from the FAA and Boeing.“
The EASA also investigated human factors, which led to new pilot training requirements to ensure they are familiar with all aspects of the aircraft’s flight control system and „will react appropriately to typical failure scenarios“.
The proposed directive had been open for public comments, which have now been added to the final review, Ky added.
„We expect to publish it next week, which means that the Max will be cleared to fly again in Europe from our perspective,“ he said.
Airlines will still need to ensure their pilots have received the training needed to fly the plane, and that the maintenance and changes necessary have been carried out after the long grounding. Some EU member states will have to lift their own individual grounding notices as well.
Last month, aviation authorities in the United States and Brazil both approved changes that Boeing made to the automated flight control system and cleared the 737 Max for flight. Transport Canada said earlier this week that it had been cleared to start flying again Wednesday.
Airline executives, including Emirates President Tim Clark, have credited the EASA’s „very hard-line“ for helping to restore public trust in the aircraft.