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European Union regulator to approve Boeing 737 MAX flights next week

PARIS: The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) plans to authorise the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again next week, 22 months after the plane was grounded following two fatal crashes.

“For us, the MAX will be able to fly again starting next week,” after publication of a directive clearing the jet, EASA director Patrick Ky said in a video conference.

“We have reached the point where our four main demands have been fulfilled,” Ky said during the conference, organised by the German association of aviation journalists.

The MAX was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes that together killed 346 people — the 2018 Lion Air disaster in Indonesia and an Ethiopian Airlines crash the following year.

Investigators said a main cause of both crashes was a faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Meant to keep the plane from stalling as it ascends, the automated system instead forced the nose of the plane downward.

The findings plunged Boeing into crisis, with more than 650 orders for the 737 MAX cancelled since last year.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered Boeing to revamp the jet and implement new pilot training protocols, before finally approving the plane for a return to service in November.

Ky had already indicated in October that EU approval was likely after Boeing promised a new sensor would be added to prevent the type of problems that caused the 737 crashes.

US to charge ex-Boeing pilot over 737 MAX crashes

New York: Federal prosecutors are preparing to indict a former Boeing test pilot suspected of misleading aviation regulators over the safety issues blamed for two fatal 737 MAX crashes, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Mark Forkner was the lead contact between the aviation giant and the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration over how pilots should be trained to fly the planes, the Journal said.

According to documents published in early 2020, Forkner withheld details about the planes’ faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS — later blamed for both crashes — from regulators.

The 737 MAX was formally certified in March 2017, but was grounded worldwide for 20 months following two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed 346 people.

The MAX was allowed to fly again at the end of 2020, once the MCAS software was modified.

Boeing has acknowledged its responsibility in misleading regulators and agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle certain lawsuits.