The Boeing 737 MAX (BA) could return to the air in Europe within weeks, after a watchdog declared it was “safe to fly” following two fatal crashes.
The plane was grounded by aviation regulators around the world in March 2019. It came after two crashes involving the plane within five months in Indonesia and Ethiopia which left 346 people dead.
The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced on Tuesday that it planned to approve the aircraft’s return to the skies within the bloc “within a matter of weeks.”
The EASA said 20 of its experts had given the aircraft around 20 months of “dedicated attention” to assess its safety. This investigation “has now given EASA the confidence to declare the aircraft will be safe to fly again.”
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Patrick Ky, executive director of the EASA, said in a statement: “EASA made clear from the outset that we would conduct our own objective and independent assessment of the 737 MAX, working closely with the FAA and Boeing, to make sure that there can be no repeat of these tragic accidents, which touched the lives of so many people.
“I am confident that we have left no stone unturned in our assessment of the aircraft with its changed design approach.
“Each time when it may have appeared that problems were resolved, we dug deeper and asked even more questions. The result was a thorough and comprehensive review of how this plane flies and what it is like for a pilot to fly the MAX, giving us the assurance that it is now safe to fly.”
It has published a ‘proposed airworthiness directive,’ marking a key step towards the plane’s return.
It comes less than a week after the US Federal Aviation Administration also lifted its 20-month ban on the plane, reported to be the longest in commercial aviation history.
“The design changes that are being put in place completely eliminate the possibility of an accident occurring that is similar to the two accidents," the authority’s chief Steve Dickson told Reuters.
A UK Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said: “The UK Civil Aviation Authority notes the decision by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to recertify the design of the Boeing 737 MAX.
“This follows on from the recent similar decision by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We continue to work closely with EASA on all issues relating to the B737 Max and the aircraft’s future return to service.”
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