The test flights of the Boeing 737 MAX by the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are now completed. They took place in Vancouver, Canada due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The next step in the evaluation of the aircraft for return to service is analyzing the data gathered during the test flights. This phase will start in London Gatwick Airport on September 14, 2020 where the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) will meet.
The JOEB includes participation by Brazilian, Canadian, European, and US pilots and regulators and will last about 10 days. During those days the JOEB will evaluate proposed MAX training for pilots. Also, it will feed a report led by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aimed at establishing a minimum training curriculum.
However, several other regulators than the FAA - including EASA - will conduct their own reviews. EASA has been working in close cooperation with the FAA and Boeing. But return of the Boeing 737 MAX to the European skies can only happen if the EASA is convinced it is safe.
One of the key steps before regulators to approve the MAX, is finalizing an airworthiness directive detailing required steps for operators. The FAA already issued a draft directive in August outlining the main steps and putting all MAX pilots through revised training.
Public comment on Boeing 737 MAX
Currently, the directive is in the midst of a public comment period that runs through September 21. So far, the directive has garnered 130 comments. They come mainly from people who say they are not in aviation, but have an interest in the MAX because they travel. Many commenters say the proposed changes are not enough to convince them to fly again on a MAX. This points to an important aspect: will travelers trust the MAX such that they are willing to fly this aircraft again after 2 horrible accidents with 346 fatalities?
No time line
The FAA will prepare the final directive, but has no time line. Boeing hopes the directive will be issued before year’s end. But that doesn’t mean the MAX can immediately start operating. Airlines will not only have to complete a list of technical tasks. They also need to train their pilots.
Tags: Boeing 737 MAX, test flights, airworthiness directive, pilot training