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EASA clears Boeing 737 MAX

Aviation Updates Philippines – European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) cleared the Boeing 737 MAX to return to service on Wednesday, after an almost two-year ban on the aircraft following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

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However, the 737 MAX that has been cleared now is not the same one from two years ago. It's now a safer and highly-modified jet, as Boeing and aviation regulators worldwide ordered amendments to improve overall safety on the aircraft.

Specifically, the EASA mandated a package of software upgrades, electrical working rework, maintenance checks, operations manual updates, and crew training.

“We have reached a significant milestone on a long road,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “Following extensive analysis by EASA, we have determined that the 737 MAX can safely return to service. This assessment was carried out in full independence of Boeing or the Federal Aviation Administration and without any economic or political pressure – we asked difficult questions until we got answers and pushed for solutions which satisfied our exacting safety requirements. We carried out our own flight tests and simulator sessions and did not rely on others to do this for us.

“Let me be quite clear that this journey does not end here,” he added. “We have every confidence that the aircraft is safe, which is the precondition for giving our approval. But we will continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely as the aircraft resumes service. In parallel, and at our insistence, Boeing has also committed to work to enhance the aircraft still further in the medium term, in order to reach an even higher level of safety.”

The worldwide grounding of the said plane was enforced following the crash of Lion Air flight 610 in October 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 in March 2019, figuring 346 people in two separate crashes.

The root cause of the aircraft's crash is the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software installed in the MAX series. The failure or incorrect readings of the angle of attack sensors led the MCAS to automatically correct the plane's pitch without a pilot's control.

Boeing, in a statement, responded to EASA's easing of restrictions: "We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents. These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity. We continue to work with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, its member states, other global regulators and our customers to safely return the 737-8 and 737-9 to service worldwide."

Before each 737 MAX aircraft returns to service, the European aviation regulator mandates airlines and operators to adhere to the Airworthiness Directive, which details the aircraft and operational suitability changes, including crew training requirements.

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