The European Union Safety Agency (EASA) has announced it will start its flight tests of the Boeing 737 MAX in early-September 2020 in order for the aircraft “to return to service as soon as possible.”
The move comes two months after both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had completed certification flight tests. According to the EASA, “While Boeing still has some final actions to close off, EASA judges the overall maturity of the re-design process is now sufficient to proceed to flight tests.” The European agency has worked closely with Boeing and the FAA, but progress in getting the troubled aircraft back in the sky has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic which has hampered travel between the U.S. and Europe.
EASA, together with Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, has been in active negotiations, according to the European regulator. The parties reached an agreement that the flight tests of the Boeing 737 MAX will start in the week commencing September 7 in Vancouver, Canada.
The flight tests will follow a week of simulator-based test flights that will start on September 1 at London Gatwick Airport (LGW). The Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB), comprised of Boeing 737 MAX pilots, will begin their test procedures on September 14, 2020.
“EASA has been working steadily, in close cooperation with the FAA and Boeing, to return the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to service as soon as possible, but only once it is convinced it is safe,” the agency’s statement reads.
On August 27, 2020, Transport Canada began its flight test campaign by completing its first Boeing 737 MAX test flight. The Canadian authority became the first foreign authority to do so, joining the US’ FAA, which began its work to test flight the grounded aircraft in June 2020.
In the meantime, Pilots from both Boeing and Canada’s transportation watchdog, Transport Canada, began flight tests on the 737 MAX this Wednesday. Once flight tests are complete, Canadian, European, and Brazilian regulators, operating under the banner of the Joint Evaluation Board, will carry out simulator exercises to assess any proposed changes to pilot training. If all goes well and no further glitches either in the plane’s structure or upgraded software are found, the FAA will subsequently issue an order which will rescind the grounding of the jet.
With deliveries unlikely to recommence before the beginning of the fourth quarter, there is a possibility that the 737 MAX will not be back in commercial service before 2021.