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            december 12, 2019

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Boeing Max return faces delays over tiff between Europe-US regulators


Concerns are mounting among aviation executives that a widening split between regulators in the US and Europe will prolong the grounding of Boeing's 737 Max, while officials work to approve the resumption of commercial flights after two fatal crashes.
Sounding the alarm over the increasingly tenuous alliance were AerCap Holdings chief executive officer Aengus Kelly and United Airlines boss Oscar Munoz. The International Air Transport Association's head Alexandre de Juniac said he was "worried and disappointed" by the lack of unity among regulators, reported Bloomberg.
The regulatory talks, which had been held behind closed doors, went public after the head of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said that his group is conducting its own study of Boeing's design changes along with a broader review. Under standard procedures used in past accidents, regulators would have delegated authority to the US Federal Aviation Administration.
"The challenge of the moment is certification," said Mr Kelly. "When will this airplane be permitted to fly on a global basis?"
Boeing has said the Max is still on track to be cleared by US regulators early in the fourth quarter. Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the plane, thinks the go-ahead is likely to come through in early-to-mid November. Airlines will still need to make a range of preparations to ready the planes after they're approved to fly, and Southwest has removed the Max from its schedule through early January.
"We continue to work with the FAA and global regulators on addressing their concerns in order to safely return the Max to service," Boeing said in an email. The independent review is among four demands that EASA spelled out in an April 1 letter to US regulators, weeks after flight-control software was linked to the second fatal Max accident in five months.
The EASA's objective is "to ensure that no similar weaknesses in the design are present in the other (safety critical) areas of the 737 Max design," executive director Patrick Ky told a committee of the European Parliament on September 3.
Europe's insistence on an independent review reflects an erosion of trust in the FAA after officials signed off on a software system that went haywire on the Max because of a faulty sensor. The so-called Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) pushed the Max's nose down in both crashes until pilots lost control. In total, 346 people were killed.
"The FAA has a transparent and collaborative relationship with other civil aviation authorities as we continue our review of changes to software on the Boeing 737 Max," the US agency said. "Our first priority is safety, and we have set no time-frame for when the work will be completed. Each government will make its own decision to return the aircraft to service based on a thorough safety assessment."
Without coordination among regulators globally, the Max's return to commercial service will be "haphazard," Mr Kelly warned. Operators will be forced to avoid the airspace of countries where the plane is banned. "It makes it very difficult for airlines to plan - close on impossible," he said.
Mr de Juniac, former Air France CEO, cited discord between the FAA and its counterparts in Europe and Canada as particularly worrisome, saying aviation risks emerging from the Max crisis with a "patchwork of different systems" instead of the unified approach that has worked "fantastically" for years.
The EASA still has concerns with the architecture Boeing has proposed for sensors that measure the angle of attack of a plane's wings relative to the onrushing air. The redesigned system would compare readings from two vanes to guard against the erroneous data that tripped MCAS on the doomed flights operated by Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesia's Lion Air.
EASA confirmed in a follow-up email to Bloomberg that what Boeing has presented so far "does not fully address our concerns."

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