ADDIS ABEBA – The head of Europe’s aviation safety agency [EASA] has said he is “certain” Boeing’s 737 Max is now safe to fly.
The organization had “left no stone unturned” in its review of the aircraft and its analysis of design changes made by the manufacturer, its Executive Director Patrick Ky told the BBC on Monday.
The plane was grounded in March 2019 following two deadly accidents involving Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air.
Reports into the March 10 crash in Ethiopia and a Lion Air accident in Indonesia, which killed a combined total of 346 people, confirmed that an automated system erroneously pointed the planes’ noses down repeatedly after take-off.
After a recent design change to the system, authorities in the US and Brazil have allowed the use of the plane while EASA expects to give permission for it to return to service in Europe in mid-January.
Since the Ethiopian crash, EASA said it has been carrying out a root-and-branch review of the 737 Max’s design, independently from a similar process undertaken by the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The review, says Ky, went well beyond the immediate causes of the two accidents and the modifications proposed by Boeing.
“We went further and reviewed all the flight controls, all the machinery of the aircraft”, he explains.
The aim, he says, was to look at anything which could cause a critical failure.
In order to return to service, existing planes will now have to be equipped with new computer software, as well as undergoing changes to their wiring and cockpit instrumentation.
Pilots will have to undergo mandatory training, and a test flight to ensure the changes have been carried out correctly. US regulators have set out similar conditions.
Ethiopian is currently weighing whether to accept more of the models from Boeing, which has revamped the aircraft with new software and alert systems. The airline has more of the planes on order.
Speaking at Fortune’s Global Forum in Paris late last year, CEO of the airlines Tewolde GebreMariam said the company is still mulling the decision; it wants to see the plane’s modifications first.
The airlines will “be the last one” to fly the plane, said. “We have to make sure by 110%. We have to convince our pilots, our customers.”
Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing are currently in discussion to build a memorial at the crash site.