Boeing 737 MAX Cleared By European Regulators

Filed Under: Misc.

The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded globally since March 2019, following two fatal crashes. For the past 19 months Boeing has been making fixes to the plane and working on getting it certified once again. Well, there’s some great news for Boeing today.

The first major global regulator has just signed off on the Boeing 737 MAX returning to the skies.

European regulators sign off on Boeing 737 MAX

Patrick Ky, Executive Director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has today stated that he’s satisfied with the changes that Boeing has made to the 737 MAX.

This is a major milestone, but even so, the 737 MAX won’t be able to return to the European skies immediately:

  • The EASA is currently performing final document reviews
  • Then a draft airworthiness is expected to be issued next month
  • That will be followed by a four week period for public comment
  • At that point the plane will be able to once again enter commercial service in Europe, which is expected to happen before the end of the year

The 737 MAX could be flying in Europe before the end of the year

EASA still demands further 737 MAX upgrades

While the EASA is willing to allow the 737 MAX to return to the skies, the agency is still requiring the development of a synthetic sensor, to add redundancy to the plane’s angle-of-attack sensors.

This is expected to take up to two years to develop, though the plane is still allowed to fly in the meantime. As Ky describes this:

“Our analysis is showing that this is safe, and the level of safety reached is high enough for us. What we discussed with Boeing is the fact that with the third sensor, we could reach even higher safety levels.”

This will be required on the 737 MAX 10 when it debuts in 2022, and will have to be retrofitted on other versions of the 737 MAX.

Existing 737 MAXs will be retrofitted with these new sensors

Support from foreign regulators is significant

The 737 MAX certification process and investigation has brought a lot of things to light, both regarding Boeing’s corporate culture, and also regarding its relationship with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

As the 737 MAX has undergone the certification process, one major question has been whether foreign regulators would follow the FAA’s lead. In other words, even if the FAA certified the 737 MAX, would other regulators, given that they let us down the first time around?

It’s certainly a good sign for Boeing that the first real approval is coming from a non-US regulator. It’s expected that within weeks the FAA will also clear the 737 MAX to return to the skies, but in this case the EASA feels more comfortable with the plane than the FAA (at least publicly).

Ultimately it’s up to each individual aviation regulator to decide on their policy. Presumably they’re not all going to do test flights on the plane, so it’ll be interesting to see if there’s widespread support of FAA and EASA approval, or what ends up happening.

Will other regulators follow the EASA’s lead?

We’ll see how passengers respond

I’ll be very curious to see how the public responds to the 737 MAX returning to the skies:

  • So many people have said “I’ll never fly that plane,” but only time will tell if that’s just empty talk, or if people follow through on that; it could be like people who threaten to never fly an airline again, and then the next time when that airline is a dollar cheaper than the competitor, they book it
  • We’ve seen some airlines say they’ll let people rebook if they are scheduled to be on a 737 MAX, so I’m curious to see just how many airlines have a policy like this; perhaps it’s a moot point for now, as airlines are waiving change fees in general
  • Boeing is quietly rebranding the 737 MAX — for example, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is now being branded as the 737-8, so clearly Boeing is hoping that people forget the “MAX” name

Would I be comfortable flying the 737 MAX when it returns to service? Well:

  • Have I lost a lot of respect for both Boeing and the FAA throughout this process? Absolutely
  • But personally I’d be happy to fly the 737 MAX again once it’s approved by multiple reputable regulators

Ironically airlines might just as unhappy as passengers about the 737 MAX being cleared to fly again, because they’ll be on the hook for paying for these planes, and won’t be getting compensation from Boeing anymore.

Will passengers really not fly the 737 MAX?

Bottom line

European regulators have stated that they’re happy with the changes that Boeing has made to the 737 MAX, and expect the plane to be flying again before the end of the year.

In many ways approval from the EASA is almost more valuable than approval from the FAA — getting a non-US regulator onboard with the plane is a huge step in the right direction.

It sounds like the 737 MAX should be back in the European skies before the end of the year, and I’d guess it will be back in US skies around the same time. Only time will tell how passengers will respond.

What do you make of the return of the Boeing 737 MAX?

  1. I don’t think the plane will face serious resistance from passengers. It is no longer in the news, people are desperate to travel and most passengers wouldn’t be able to figure out what plane they are flying, unless they are told by the airline.

  2. I would imagine that part of the reason that the FAA has been slow to issue their approval has been a desire to have a foreign regulatory agency approve it first. The optics of this are simply much better than the FAA being first with the appearance of pressure being put on others.

  3. This is great news for Boeing! As for me flying on the 737-MAX, I’m waiting at least 2 years to see whether there are any other crashes. This plane had its first commercial flight in 2017 and was then grounded in early 2019 due to 2 crashes. I definitely do not want to be one of the guinea pigs and fly this plane during its first months back in commercial aviation…. regardless of what the FAA or EASA says about its safety.

  4. I won’t be booking myself onto the first flight. When it’s been flying for a year without incident, I’ll be more relaxed about it.

  5. MAX’s will probably the safest passenger plane in the world once all the major int’l agencies give it the green light to restart service

  6. Given the scrutiny, the redundant fixes, the training and what is at stake, this plane has probably become the safest aircraft to fly on. My own reluctance to use it, at least on AA, remains the ridiculous “Oasis” interiors and density, the lack of IFE and the size of the toilets.

  7. @Pierre has a great point that most people overlook due to the 2 crashes…”Lipstick on a pig” comes to mind with regards to this aircraft comfort/size wise…I avoid the 737-900ER as much as possible as is…Of course that can be difficult being a UA flyer, but I try…I feel I will be doing the same with these out of an abundance of caution as well as the OLD CRAMPED 737 interior…

  8. I will try to avoid the MAX for a couple of years, but I don’t think they flying public will care that much.

  9. Count me in as one who will continue to avoid it, not because it’s a MAX, but because it’s a 737. There’s only so much lipstick you can slap on the pig. I realize 737s are nearly impossible to avoid, especially in the domestic US market, but give a choice between a 737 or alternative families like the A320, A220, or 757, I’m going to pick the latter every single time.

  10. I made sure to seek these out on Southwest before the crashes and i loved them, fly the max 3 times and every time passengers came on board they were pleasantly surprised with the space, the colors, the windows, and the massive overhead space. Passengers loved this plane (obviously before the news of the 2 crashes) but Southwest never had an issue with them (probably because they have real pilots) and wanted them back in service asap.

  11. Presumably each plane needs a software update, and the FAA (and maybe the Euros) were also going to require some rebundling/rerouting of control wires running through the tail that could cause a short in the stabilizer controls.

    So, long story short, you’re not going to be flying a MAX anytime soon. I’d guess that maybe the earliest ones might start flying late Summer 2020. I’d guess Southwest won’t hesitate to put them back in service as soon as they’re available.

  12. I’m booked on a United MCO – IAD flight in November, and when I booked it, it showed as a 737-8 MAX. When I checked this week, it had been changed back to a 737-800. I don’t know why United loaded the MAX in their inventory and then withdrew it.

  13. There will be exactly zero resistance from passengers. They do not care. All they want is $29 flights to Orlando.

    However, the mobs of self-appointed keyboard warrior aviation safety experts will howl at the moon endlessly over their outrage. They’re utterly ignorant about anything involving aviation technology beyond what kind of bowl the nuts are served in up in business class, but that won’t stop them from denouncing whatever is done.

  14. @steve cc
    What a ” patronising remark ” Southwest never had any issues with them (probably because they have real pilots)” What are you implying?That any airline that has a crash doesn’t have real pilots?

  15. The design of the aircraft is fundamentally flawed and pilots will require retraining to deal with an aircraft whose aerodynamic characteristics don’t favor balanced flight.

    It is profoundly unsafe to continue to try and tinker with this design by compensating through software. It isn’t a software problem, it’s a design problem.

    My answer is no.

  16. As it’s clear that this winter will probably result in the kind of passenger numbers we say in May & June (90% lower than same time last year), I don’t think the max planes will really even be in the fleet of most airliners. The fact is that the 737 max is already obsolete for the next 6 months because it’s too high density. Unless airliners are planning on using these planes to conduct transatlantic flights because it’s clearly lower density than a wide body & the passenger numbers will be extremely low, then there’s no real usage for this aircraft in Europe & North America & most likely not even in Asia

  17. These only belong in the world in places where they can be turned into restaurants. Only use of them-period.

  18. I just wont fly it. I know it doesnt matter as 95% of passengers have no clue what they are flying on and if they knew wouldnt care, but still…

  19. I think the general public doesn’t understand the extent to which the MAX crashes could have been avoided by more competent pilots.

    There’s a channel on YouTube, MentourPilot – he’s a 737 captain – he explains that all you would’ve had to do to prevent the MCAS-induced stall would be to follow the procedure for a runaway trim emergency. That procedure literally is to flip one switch to disable the auto-trim system, which is a superset of / contains the MCAS functionality.

    Auto-trim has existed since the 737NG; MCAS was just added to it in the 737MAX. Should Boeing have never allowed this issue to exist in the first place? Definitely. Should they have updated training manuals to inform pilots about this new system? Absolutely. Could a pilot that actually had The Right Stuff ™ solved the emergency in two seconds? Yes.

    I’ll be flying them the day they return to service.

  20. @Luke
    So what you are saying is that Black and Brown pilots (on Ethiopian and Lion respectively) are not “competent pilots”. Shame on you Sir.

  21. It’s the usual set up. The approval came from Europe first to convince the US public and others that its certified by an “outsider” first. Watch the news media spin it, and say its a “significant” development, since the FAA lost all credibility. Not buying this for a minute.

    I will not be boarding one of these.

  22. Been in the transportation industry for years!!!! I will say this: when the DC-10 experienced all those crashes, people threatened to not fly them. And some held true to that. But the vast majority of people hopped right back on them when they were cleared to fly again. The only difference between then and now is 1) the news is literally in your pocket and thrown in your face, whereas it wasn’t like that back in the 70s and 80s. And articles like this could only be read in newspapers. So you weren’t constantly reminded of the failings of McDonnell Douglas. 2) the 737MAX was grounded way longer than any other aircraft type in history. Even with the cancelations (which I attribute more to airlines looking to shed off excess orders due to low demand because of coronavirus rather than a bad reputation), the MAX still has a relatively healthy order book. And I suspect we will start to see more orders come in a very short time once the grounding is lifted worldwide. The general public often couldn’t tell you if they were on a Boeing jet or an Airbus, let alone which model it is. Boeing seems to understand that the MAX name has been tarnished and, like the article said, is quietly ditching the name.

    As for me? I flew on this aircraft at least 30 times before it was grounded. I will have no problem boarding another one once they’re cleared to fly. Neither will millions of others.

    Just my 2¢.

  23. @Tesfa It has nothing to do with “black and brown pilots.” It has to do with the fact that both Lion Air and Ethiopian had demonstrably bad pilot training programs. It really isn’t that hard to do a little reading/research into what happened. Although I admit that it’s more difficult than just spouting off racism accusations.

  24. Well, I think with the ultra slim schedules because of the pandemic pax will have to accept whatever plane is taking them there … In particular flying international, you are often down to one flight every other day. If you don’t take this one because of aircraft preferences, you will have to walk (or swim) …

  25. @GlobeTrotter “people are desperate to travel”

    Really? Do tell…No one is desperate to travel through virus-infested airport terminal only to get squeezed inside an uncomfortable metal tube for hours with hundreds of strangers carrying whatever god-awful disease.

    Funniest comment ever. Desperate to travel. /s

  26. @Andy, it seems to me that the pandemic has shown that people *won’t* fly if their choice is between flying unsafely and not flying at all.

  27. I will not fly a 737MAX until it has had a two-year record of safe flying. I suppose I could be convinced to shorten that to one year. But I absolutely won’t be getting on one before that. It seems to me that the engine redesign as created fundamental stability of flight issues.

    All those people arguing that the flying public is ignorant of aircraft types are forgetting that this is the age of social media. The flaws of the 737MAX are infamous in a way that those of no other aircraft (save perhaps the Concorde in 2000) have ever been before — not the Comet, not the DC10.

    Finally, the attempts to blame pilots for what is demonstrably a flaw in design and software are shameful. I agree there may be some racism at work.

  28. I will totally avoid it for at least the first year back in service. But will continue to avoid it whenever possible because of the cramped interior. I have flown on it once on AC from LAX-YYZ, the seat and the lav were small.

  29. I will definitely be flying Max. After 18 months of work it will be as safe as any other safe plane.
    I too wonder why US did not have crashes that others had.

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