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Boeing 737 MAX to Receive Final Flight Clearance from the EU Next Week
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the Boeing 737 MAX will receive its final clearance to continue operation in Europe next week. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is the last major safety regulator to approve the jet after two fatal crashes grounded it in March 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States and the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) in Brazil both re-certified the MAX in late 2020, and Transport Canada is expected to follow suit on Jan. 20.
The EASA took its time in re-certifying the 737 MAX, insisting on carrying out its own broad, in-depth assessment of Boeing’s changes. Normally, the agency would automatically accept the FAA’s certification as part of a bilateral aviation safety agreement between the two regulators. This meant that the EU would trust the FAA’s judgment and allow new commercial aircraft, regardless of manufacturer, to begin flying in both regions at the same time. However, because of the FAA’s lack of oversight during the MAX’s first certification, the EASA will conduct its own tests and review of the jet, particularly the plane’s MCAS system.
According to Reuters, the certification should be complete by next week, allowing the jet to return to the skies after 22 months on the ground.
EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement, “We expect to publish it next week, which means the MAX will be cleared to fly again.”
He also explained that a second certification for the MAX-200 model, a slightly-modified 737 Max 8 that can carry 2oo passengers, would follow in the “coming weeks.” This approval will allow the MAX-200 variant to resume flights before summer.
While the MAX’s re-certification is exciting for airlines and Boeing, family members of the crash victims opposed the approval. Michael Stumo, whose daughter died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, expressed distrust and concern over the aircraft’s clearance.
Stumo said, “The flying public should avoid the MAX. Change your flight. This is still a more dangerous aircraft than other modern planes.”
Furthermore, Yalena Lopez-Lewis, who lost her husband in the Ethiopian accident, said, “I call on anyone looking to book a flight in the future to understand when they buy their ticket what type of airplane will be used so they can make an informed decision for themselves and their loved ones.”
Who is Flying the Max?
On December 9, 2020, Brazil’s GOL Airlines became the first carrier to resume commercial MAX flights. Its 737 MAX 8, registered as PR-XMB, operated flight 4101 from Sao Paulo’ Guarulhos International Airport to Salgado Filho International Airport in Porto Alegre.
Since then, both American Airlines and Aeromexico have re-started MAX flights. Aeromexico resumed flights on Dec. 21 when it operated a flight from Benito Juarez International in Mexico City to Cancun International Airport.
Pablo Aram Aznavurian Roure, Aeromexico’s Vice President of Flight Operations, said, “As a pilot and Grupo Aeromexico representative, I am very proud to welcome back into our operations one of the most efficient, modern, less polluting and safest aircraft in the world. Our pilots, technicians and all airline employees are ready to fly.”
The airline is expected to add more MAX routes in the future, including flights to Guadalajara, Tijuana and Monterrey.
Meanwhile, American re-launched MAX operations on Dec. 29 with a flight from Miami International Airport to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. According to CNBC, the captain’s wife and the first officer’s mother were on board the flight.
“This aircraft is ready to go,” said American President Robert Isom shortly before departure in Miami.
Alaska Airlines and Canadian carrier WestJet are expected to continue MAX operations in the coming months. Alaska took delivery of its first 737 MAX on Jan. 14 and plans to fly the aircraft in March 2021. WestJet will begin flying its jets after Transport Canada approves the plane on Jan. 20.
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