The United States Federal Aviation Agency cleared the path for Boeing’s 737 MAX to resume flying. However, the agency said existing aircraft will need to be modified and each U.S. airline would have to make FAA-approved changes in pilot training before the 737 MAX goes back into full service.
Wednesday’s decision marks the end of what the FAA called a methodical 20-month review process of the beleaguered airline and its troubled aircraft.
Regulators around the world grounded the MAX in March 2019 after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet. That crash happened less than five months after another MAX flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea. The crashes killed a combined 346 people.
Boeing president and CEO, Stan Deal, said in a news release that the FAA directive was an “important milestone” but agreed that there’s a lot of work still to be done. “We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide,” Deal said.
Global regulators, who in the past have followed the lead of the FAA, held off on approving the Boeing 737 MAX.
Many of them are now wary of seeming to toe the FAA line after the U.S. agency was faulted for lax oversight.
Canada and Brazil, two other leading aircraft-producing nations, are expected to back the FAA’s decision within weeks. But both said on Wednesday they weren’t yet ready to decide.
“I think it’s causing the countries to be a little bit more critical of the type-certificate validation process,” said Mike Daniel, a former FAA certification expert and accident investigator based in Singapore. “Hopefully they’re a little bit more critical of what their air operators are required to do with regard to training.”
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is conducting its own investigation of the 737 MAX. The EASA could issue its ungrounding order as early as next week, followed by a 30-day comment period.