The flight ban on the 737 MAX aircraft made by the American manufacturer Boeing is lifted in the USA. One of the conditions is that new control software be installed in the aircraft, the US aviation authority announced on Wednesday. After twenty months, the longest time in the history of American aviation in which a type of aircraft was grounded ends.
The 737 MAX devices have been parked around the world since mid-March last year, after two fatal accidents in just a few months. 346 were killed. It later emerged that the disasters were caused by a flawed security system that kept pushing the aircraft’s nose down. This error was corrected with an update of the software.
The FAA’s green light marks the end of the longest period in US aviation history when an aircraft type was discontinued after 20 months. Aviation authorities in other parts of the world are expected to soon follow America’s lead. Patrick Ky, the chief executive officer of the European authority EASA, previously said he expected the green light for Europe this year.
“An important milestone,” says Boeing. “We will continue to work with regulators around the world and with our customers to bring the aircraft back into service worldwide.”
However, US approval does not mean that the 737 MAX will take off and land in the US immediately. “Our decision will not enable the MAX to fly again immediately,” the FAA also emphasizes. Airlines need to update their computer software and retrain pilots. For example, the FAA advises that it must approve the pilot training plan of every U.S. airline with 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet.
Southwest Airlines, which owns most of the aircraft, says it could take months to meet FAA requirements and it doesn’t expect to return to flight with the 737 MAX until the second quarter of 2021.
Grounding the aircraft cost Boeing billions, disrupted the supply chain, and led to investigations which found Boeing and the FAA were not transparently and properly monitored during the development of the 737 MAX. A criminal investigation is still ongoing.
It also remains to be seen how passengers will react to the MAX plane’s re-entry. According to some observers, the designation “MAX” may disappear from the aircraft name.
The Belgian airline TUI fly has several 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet.