Boeing still has to cross a couple of hurdles before it can resume flight services for the 737 MAX.
In a statement, Patrick Ky, the executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) stated Boeing’s 737 MAX airliner, which is currently grounded, is likely to return to service in Europe during the first quarter of 2020.
Although the European regulator is likely to provide its seal of approval in January 2020, preparations by national authorities and airlines could potentially delay the resumption of commercial flights by up to another two months, indicated Ky.
“If there are training requirements (and) coordination to be done with the EU member states to make sure everyone does the same thing at the same time, this will take a bit of time,” said Ky. “That’s why I’m saying the first quarter of 2020.”
On its part, Boeing is aiming to return the 737 MAX to service by the end of 2019 after making suitable changes to its software in the wake of two deadly crashes which left 346 people dead and led the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounding the plane in March 2019.
On Monday, low-cost airlines operator Ryanair, one of Boeing’s biggest MAX clients, stated it expects further delays to MAX deliveries to reduce its growth in 2020.
Before allowing 737 MAX flights to resume in Europe, EASA will carry out its suit of testing checks which include simulator and flight tests.
Last week, European experts traveled to Rockwell Collins facilities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to begin the audit of a “reasonably final” version of the 737 MAX’s software.
“There has been a lot of work done on the design of the software,” said Ky while adding, “We think there is still some work to be done.”
Boeing’s spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined to comment.
FAA’s spokesman declined to comment.
Ky did not elaborate on the likelihood that regulators will require additional simulator training for 737 MAX pilots, which is going to add to more delays.
Decisions regarding this aspect can be taken only after EASA’s own simulator and flight tests, said Ky. “It’s really at the end of the process because it’s much more operational.”
The European regulator aims to complete a detailed software review by the end of this month, followed by December flight tests “if everything goes well”, said Ky.