Europe’s aviation regulator, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), has said that changes to Boeing 737 Max have made the plane safe enough to return to European skies, it has been reported.
The announcement made in Bloomberg by the agency’s chief executive, Patrick Ky, has been given even as a further upgrade the agency demanded won’t be ready for up to two years.
After test flights conducted in September, he said that EASA is performing final document reviews ahead of a draft airworthiness directive it expects to issue in November.
That will be followed by four weeks of public comment, while the development of a so-called synthetic sensor to add redundancy will take 20 to 24 months, he said. The software-based solution will be required on the larger Max 10 variant before its debut targeted for 2022, and retrofitted onto other versions.
“Our analysis is showing that this is safe, and the level of safety reached is high enough for us,” Ky said in an interview. “What we discussed with Boeing is the fact that with the third sensor, we could reach even higher safety levels.”
The comments mark the firmest endorsement yet from a major regulator of Boeing’s goal to return it t service by year-end following numerous delays and setbacks.
The Max, the latest version of the venerable 737 narrow-body, was grounded in March 2019 in the wake of two accidents that took 346 lives, setting into motion a crisis that cost Boeing billions of US dollars and then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg his job.
While the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing’s main certification body, is further along in its review, it has held back from making predictions about the timing. FAA chief Steve Dickson flew the Max late last month and said he was “very comfortable,” but the process wasn’t complete.
A spokesperson for Boeing declined to comment on the report in Bloomberg.
In the interview, Ky said the synthetic sensor would simplify the job of pilots when one or both of the mechanical angle-of-attack sensors on the Max fails. The device, which monitors whether a plane is pointed up or down relative to the oncoming air, malfunctioned in both crashes — the first off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018 and the second one, five months later, in Ethiopia.
“We think that it is overall a good development which will increase the level of safety,” Ky said. “It’s not available now and it will be available at the same time as the Max 10 is expected to be certified.”