The grounded Boeing 737 Max may be on course to resume commercial service by the end of the year, according to Europe’s aviation safety regulator.
The new generation aircraft has been banned from flying since March last year after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) expects to lift its technical ban “not long” after the US Federal Aviation Administration, probably in November.
But national operational clearances needed for individual airlines to resume flying in Europe could take longer, according to EASA executive director Patrick Ky.
“For the first time in a year and a half I can say there’s an end in sight to work on the Max,” he said.
When asked when the technical ban would be lifted, he said: “We are looking at November.”
China is expected to take longer to give its own approval, he added.
The main focus of the review has surrounded black-box evidence that bad data from a single faulty flight-angle sensor triggered a cockpit software system that repeatedly pointed the aircraft’s nose down and overwhelmed the crew on both flights.
Boeing has said inputs from both “angle of attack” sensors on the Max will be used in the modified aircraft, instead of just one in the past, but EASA has called for a third “synthetic” sensor to provide independently computed data.
Ky said Boeing had agreed to install the computerised third-sensor system on the next version of the aircraft, the 230-seat 737 Max 10, followed by retrofits on the rest of the fleet later.
EASA, which regulates air safety in 32 mainly European Union countries, has been in dispute with the FAA and Boeing over the scope of an international review into 737 Max systems following the fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.
All but one of the differences has been resolved, Ky said, with EASA, supported by regulator Transport Canada and some unions, calling for pilots to be able to manually cut power to a “stick shaker” alarm system suspected of distracting Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crew.
Boeing declined detailed comment on the additional sensor.
“We are committed to addressing all of the regulators’ questions and meeting all certification and regulatory requirements,” a spokesman told Reuters.
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