A key milestone in restoring airworthiness certification and returning the Boeing 737 Max to operational status has been achieved with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Transport Canada (TC) having completed the crucial test flights.
News reports indicate that these flights took place in Vancouver, Canada, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Both the European and Canadian tests involve validation of data collected by the US Federal Aviation Administration from June 29 to July 1 using a Max 7.
AINonline.com reported that in a statement issued on September 11, the European regulator said its next step in evaluating the aircraft for return to service will be to analyze the data and other information collected from the flights ahead of a Joint Operations Evaluation Board meeting to be held at London Gatwick Airport in the UK next week.
Flight testing has centered largely on the airplane’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It was a malfunction in this system that was identified during the investigations of and linked to two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed 346 people between them. This resulted in the 737 Max being grounded by global aviation authorities for an unprecedented period that has already spanned 17 months, the aviation website reported.
EASA and TC have been working steadily, in close cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, to return the 737 MAX to commercial service as soon as possible, “but only once we are convinced it is safe,” EASA said.
Transport Canada added it “will not lift the flight restrictions on the Boeing 737 Max 8 until the department is fully satisfied that all the safety concerns have been addressed by the manufacturer and the FAA, and that enhanced flight crew procedures and training are in place.”
The AINonline.com report concluded that meanwhile, a proposed US Federal Aviation Administration’s Airworthiness Directive published last month calls for mandating a number of design changes to address the MCAS and angle of attack sensors. Comments are due September 21. The agency also is placing the Preliminary Summary of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Review of the Boeing 737 Maxin the docket to assist with the review of the proposed Airworthiness Directive.