IATA is calling on global regulators to authorise the Boeing 737 Max for a return to service as soon as possible following the recent FAA approval for the type even though the demand crisis has taken some of the pressure off airline capacity requirements.

The FAA cleared the Max to fly on 20 November, though with a list of conditions related to flight computer updates and new pilot training, following a 20-month grounding.

Maxes at Renton-c-VDB Photo_Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Boeing 737 Max jets on the ground in Renton, Washington.

After the FAA move other national and regional aviation regulators will have to issue their own approvals to clear the type for a return to service.

Brazilian regulator ANAC on 25 November already withdrew the airworthiness directive that had prohibited the type’s operation in Brazil after it agreed with the FAAs evaluation of technical improvements to the aircraft that address safety issues.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency expects to publish a final airworthiness directive on modification of the 737 Max in mid-January.

Some EASA member states, the agency says, issued their own decision prohibiting the operation of the 737 Max last year for their sovereign airspace.

“These bans will need to be lifted before the aircraft can fly again in the airspace of these countries,” it says. “EASA is working closely with the relevant national authorities to achieve this.”

EASA will also require non-European airlines which hold EASA third-country operator authorisation to implement equivalent requirements, including crew training.

“This will allow for the return to service of the 737 Max when the aircraft concerned are operated under [such] authorisation into, within or out of the territory of the EASA member states,” it says.

In China, the first country to ground the type following the second fatal crash in the space of a year, the country’s civil aviation authorities have reiterated comments made a month ago that there was “no set timetable” to lift the grounding of the Max.

Speaking during a media briefing on 25 November, IATA’s senior vice-president safety and flight operations Gilberto Lopez Meyer said: ”We knew a year ago this staggered return to service was going to happen, mainly because of regulations.

”Once an aircraft is authorised to return to service [in one state] this is the start of a process that begins in the other states. This is the way it happens all the time. First the certificating authorities, then the other authorities. Some authorities have shorter, some have longer legal processes to follow.”

He says that, a year ago, this was a “big concern” because the industry “urgently needed those aircraft” given the scale of capacity demand in 2019.

”But the situation we have now, with the strong reduction in demand, means this problem is not so big now,” he states. ”I’m not saying it’s not a problem. But for good or for bad, the pressure to have a simultaneous return of the Max everywhere is not as high.”

However, he notes that while the demand for capacity has relented, the greater efficiency of the Max means many operators will still want to return the type as quickly as they can.

”I would say most of the airlines would decide to bring the aircraft back as soon as possible, so we are urging the authorities to authorise the return to service following the FAA initial authorisation as soon as possible,” he says.