China / World

EU move to hit Boeing plan for jets

By Scott Reeves in New York (China Daily) Updated: 2019-10-24 07:34

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency's decision to do its own testing on the Boeing 737 Max rather than follow the US Federal Aviation Administration's lead almost certainly means further delays in recertifying the plane's worldwide return to service.

EASA chief Patrick Ky told Reuters that recertification of the Max may follow the FAA by a "couple of weeks" due "mostly to process or administrative technicalities". In the past, the EASA has generally followed the FAA's lead.

Janet Northcote, EASA spokeswoman, said the agency's test flight likely will take place in December after the FAA's own testing. Results then will be shared with members of the European Union so the Max can be cleared to enter air spaces of each of its 32 member states. She said the gap between test flights by the FAA and the EASA will be "as minimal as possible".

Boeing hopes the plane will return to service this year, but the EASA's decision probably pushes recertification of the plane in Europe into January at the earliest.

"This isn't theatrics," Robert Mann, president of R.W. Mann& Co, an aviation consulting firm in Port Washington, New York, said. "It's a case of certification protocols being slightly different. The EASA wants hands-on flying as well as simulator testing. The EASA says it could be plus or minus a couple of weeks (from the FAA's testing). In my view, it will be plus - and that pushes things back to January or February."

Analysts said at least 45 days will be needed to prepare grounded planes for service. And if recertification is staggered, as now appears likely, Max jets could be grounded for about a year in some parts of the world.

Mann said there was never a question that problems with the Max's anti-stall system, Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System - which was implicated in the crashes of two planes that claimed 346 lives - could be corrected. And while the EASA's delay underscores that regulators are moving cautiously, he said the action doesn't resolve their basic problem of keeping up with innovations in the aviation industry.

Also, Kevin McAllister, in charge of commercial aircraft for Boeing and a key member of the team to fix the anti-stall device, will be replaced by Stanley Deal, the company said on Tuesday.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, speaking to a conference of air traffic controllers in Washington on Tuesday, said Boeing had submitted the "final software load" and a 500-page "complete system description" of MACS revisions for review. Dickson said it will take "several more weeks" to review the material.

Boeing reported a 53 percent drop in quarterly profit on Wednesday. The company had a negative free cash flow of $2.89 billion in the quarter.

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