FAA clears embattled Boeing 737 Max, lifts grounding orders

FAA clears embattled Boeing 737 Max, lifts grounding orders
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The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted clearance to the Boeing 737 Max aircraft and lifted grounding orders.

The Boeing 737 Max planes, which have been grounded since March 2019 following two fatal crashes that killed 346 people, received clearance to fly from the FAA but existing planes will need to be modified before going back into service.


The required modifications include design, software and wiring changes, as well as additional training for pilots.

737 Max improvements and FAA decision

According to the FAA, the design changes it had required "have eliminated what caused these particular accidents". FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said: "We've done everything humanly possible to make sure" these types of crashes do not happen again."

Boeing chief executive officer (CEO) Dave Calhoun mentioned that aside from the required improvements to the 737 Max, the aircraft maker had also strengthened its safety practices and culture since the crashes.


Calhoun, who took the reins from Dennis Muilenburg last year, said: "We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations."

"These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity," the Boeing chief added.

In September, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) began flight tests for the 737 Max plane in Vancouver, Canada. The regulator mentioned that it had been "working steadily, in close co-operation with the FAA and Boeing, to return the Boeing 737 Max aircraft to service as soon as possible, but only once it is convinced it is safe".


EASA added: "While Boeing still has some final actions to close off, EASA judges the overall maturity of the re-design process is now sufficient to proceed to flight tests. These are a prerequisite for the European agency to approve the aircraft’s new design."

During the same month, Boeing secured its first order for the controversial 737 Max airplanes in nine months. The company said Poland’s largest charter carrier Enter Air has placed an order for two of the 737-8 Max airplanes, with the option to purchase two additional aircraft.

Ihssane Mounir, Boeing’s vice president of sales, emphasized that the order "underscores [Enter Air’s] confidence in the airplane and the men and women of Boeing."

Meanwhile, American Airlines announced in October its plan to return the 737 Max to service for passenger flights by December. According to American Airlines, the return to service of the Boeing 737 Max planes will be "highly dependent" on FAA re-certification.

American Airlines says that once the plane has been re-certified, it would gradually introduce it back to passenger flight operations.

From December 29, 2020 through January 4, 2021, the 737 Max will begin with a daily flight once-a-day between Miami and New York and then the airline will consider extending flights after that time period.

Response to FAA decision

Some people expressed disappointment over the decision while others said they did not have confidence in Boeing or the regulators, particularly the families of those killed on the crashes.

Paul Njoroge, whose wife, three children and mother-in-law were killed in the Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crash, said: "Who's going to believe them? Not me."

Travel editor Rory Boland said: "Airlines that plan on flying these aircraft should give passengers with existing bookings the option of transferring to another flight for free, while operators should also make clear which planes will be used for future bookings, so people can make an informed choice before travelling."

John Grant of aviation data firm OAG pointed out that the stain on Boeing's reputation will linger. He argued: "It's got a bad name and it's going to take some time to recover. It will do. It's been certified, it's safe, but it's going to take time."