LONDON – The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Transport Canada, alongside with the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC), will conduct its own review of the Boeing 737MAX.
This means that both bodies will split away from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to establish whether the aircraft is indeed airworthy or not to its standards.
All of this has stemmed from the incidents arising Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, both of which were 737MAXs that crashed apparently due to failures on the new MCAS systems, although this is yet to be confirmed on ET302.
These reviews could disrupt Boeing’s timetable for a software update that can automatically point the nose of the plane sharply downward in some circumstances to avoid aerodynamic stalls.
It could also put at risk the FAA’s reputation around the world if the cards are not played correctly.
Certification of the modifications onto the 737MAX
On the Canadian side, the likes of Air Canada are to keep its MAXs grounded until July 1 as well as suspending some of its routes associated with the aircraft.
In the U.S, American Airlines, Southwest and United have grounded the aircraft and are still in the process of reassigning its aircraft onto the affected routes.
The practice of certification still appears to be flawed on both sides of the pond.
European airlines have flown Boeing jets with little independent review by the likes of EASA and vice versa with Airbus jets in the U.S from the FAA.
Even after Lion Air Flight 610, reassurance from the FAA over the MAX remained strong, but it took another crash, in the case of ET302, for the action that was needed in the first crash to actually happen.
It is significant that EASA and Transport Canada have taken these steps, in order to make sure no crashes happen in their territory.
Patrick Ky, the Executive Director at EASA reestablished this, saying he is to look “very deeply, very closely” at the changes Boeing and the FAA are going to implement.
“I can guarantee to you that on our side we will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions, whatever the FAA does,”
The same theme came from Canadian Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, who suggested the idea of a separate certification to operate in Canada.
“When that software change is ready, which is a number of weeks, we will in Canada — even if it is certified by the FAA — we will do our own certification,”
Moving back to the American side, pressure will continue on the likes of Boeing and the FAA for many reasons.
Firstly, the FAA is to receive a new Chief Administrator, which is still awaiting Senate confirmation.
Former Delta Air Lines executive and pilot Stephen Dickson is set to head the agency to take over Daniel Elwell who has been acting administrator since January last year.
Next, Boeing is shifting personnel around as well, appointing John Hamilton, who has experience in airplane design and regulatory standards, as the Chief Engineer of the Commercial Airplanes Division and will lead the investigations on Boeing’s side into the two incidents.
The big point, however, is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating the administration’s oversight of Boeing, with federal grand juries firing out subpoenas to those involved in the MAXs development.
The Transportation Secretary in the U.S Elaine Chao has also ordered her inspector general to audit the FAA and the handling of certification of the jet.
Boeing has around 4,600 un-filled orders for the MAX, some of which could be put into disrepute through cancellations in case airlines do not have any confidence in the jet anymore.
It will be interested to see what each individual customer’s perspective will be and whether it will keep its commitments to the jet.
It could also prove to be a difficult thing to handle, especially as we approach the Paris Air Show, where we may not see as many orders for the MAX.
That being said, Boeing could go into full throttle on the marketing perspective and announce significant orders for the jet to maybe win back some support globally. Only time will tell!