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22 Nov, 2020 10:17

Europe to follow US in clearing Boeing 737 MAX, while China is still cautious

Europe to follow US in clearing Boeing 737 MAX, while China is still cautious

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has said Boeing’s 737 MAX may return to the skies as soon as the beginning of next year after the US regulator gave the green light for the troubled jets to fly again.

“All these studies show us that the plane can return to service,” agency head Patrick Ky said during an online aviation conference hosted by La Tribune on Saturday. “It’s likely that, in our case, we’ll adopt the decisions that will allow us to put it back in service in the course of January.”

The EASA carried out an independent analysis to see if the 737 MAX was safe to fly and conducted its own flight tests, Ky explained. He previously said the aircraft could return to service before the end of 2020, as the European regulator found that Boeing had made necessary safety changes to the plane. 

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The latest EASA announcement comes shortly after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was lifting the nearly two-year ban on Boeing’s once top-selling jet that was imposed after the aircraft was involved in two crashes in five months in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people.

The FAA said aviation authorities around the world had conducted independent reviews of the jet. Those regulators indicated that “Boeing’s design changes, together with the changes to crew procedures and training enhancements, will give them the confidence to validate the aircraft as safe to fly in their respective countries and regions,” according to the FAA.

The support of the European regulator is considered a big win for Boeing, which suffered a double hit this year from the 737 MAX fiasco and the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. It was earlier reported that the FAA’s approval was not enough for some global regulators due to the aircraft manufacturer’s damaged reputation. 

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China, which was the first country to ground the 737 MAX fleet last year, is still holding back on a decision. Earlier this week, the country’s aviation watchdog reiterated it needs to ensure that the troubled aircraft has safe and reliable modifications and demanded clarity on the results of the investigation into the cause of the two crashes, among other conditions. 

Even after winning the regulators' approval, Boeing’s worries may not be over. In October, the plane maker lost another 12 orders for the controversial 737 MAX and delivered fewer aircraft to customers than it did a year ago. With the aviation industry still reeling from the pandemic, the US company’s efforts to boost orders may be also hampered by the EU’s 15 percent tariffs. The additional import duties on US aircraft are part of the European bloc’s decision to slap American goods worth $4 billion with tariffs as punishment for US subsidies for Boeing.

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