European regulator demands will not hold up 737 MAX re-entry to service elsewhere

by Geoffrey Thomas & Steve Creedy
September 14, 2019
737 MAX Boeing
Photo: Boeing

European authorities demand to certify the 737 MAX themselves will not hold up its re-entry into service in the US and elsewhere according to a leading analyst.

In New York-based Bernstein’s report Airbus, Boeing: How scary? Slowing traffic growth, no orders, MAX/NEO issues – Why the investment case still works, it states that “although EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) has said that it will conduct its own flight tests on the MAX for certification, our assumption is this will not delay FAA certification.”

Bernstein says that Boeing maintains it will deliver its (flight control package) solution for the FAA, this month.

“Boeing still looks for FAA certification in October. Despite recent rhetoric, we do not expect EASA to be unreasonable on what it requires on the MAX,” says Bernstein.

Bernstein notes that “if EASA were seen as biased toward Airbus on this decision, the US tariff threat remains – which would be bad for all.”

And it also notes that there are “two airworthiness directives (ADs) issued related to flight controls in pitch up conditions. While the pitch up situation is like that on the MAX, no A320s have been grounded and there have been no accidents. Lufthansa modified its seating to bound center of gravity shifts on its A320neos.”

READ: US airlines post incredible fuel saving results.

This week Boeing President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg told a Morgan Stanley conference that Boeing was making solid progress on a return to service but a “phased ungrounding amongst regulators across the world was a possibility”.

The comments came after EASA recently questioned Boeing’s approach to angle of attack sensors on the plane.

Erroneous data from an angle of attack sensor prompted a flight control system known as MCAS to push down the nose of the plane in both crashes.

A presentation by EASA executive director Patrick Ky on the agency’s review of the 737 MAX found a number of “significant technical issues” that needed to be addressed and were communicated to Boeing and the FAA in July.

While EASA gave a favorable assessment he extensive changes to the flight control computer architecture it said improved crew procedures and training were still a work in progress and there was still “no appropriate response to angle of attack integrity issues”.

MCAS had initially used information from just one angle of attack sensor but the revised system will now compare data from two.

While conceding the lack of alignment among safety regulators created “timeline uncertainty’’, Muilenburg was confident the FAA would push ahead with its decision.

“When the FAA is confident that the certification steps have been completed, that the airplane is safe, that we’ve answered all the questions, then they intend to proceed,’’ he said.

The Boeing chief said the company was working its way through the questions raised by EASA and concern about the level of redundancy could be addressed by simulation work, software updates or process changes.

He also told the conference that Boeing currently plans to keep monthly 737 production at 42 although a cut or pause was still an option.

Even if Boeing gets the green light from the FAA, it will take airlines additional time to get pilots and aircraft ready to fly.

US carriers have extended flight cancellations of  737 MAX services until the end of the year or early next year.

American Airlines announced earlier this month it had pushed out MAX cancelations to December 3, while United Airlines has extended to December 9 and Southwest Airlines to January 5.