European regulators say that the earliest date they may be able to certify the Boeing 737 Max to return to service would likely be in January 2020 following flight tests independent of the Federal Aviation Administration, Reuters news service reports on 21 October.
The executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Patrick Ky, told the news service late last week that EASA would coordinate with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the jet’s return to service, but that the two agencies have different processes and requirements to do so.
"For me it is going to be the beginning of next year, if everything goes well. As far as we know today, we have planned for our flight tests to take place in mid-December which means decisions on a return to service for January, on our side," EASA's Ky told Reuters.
The jet has been grounded worldwide since March 2019 after two crashes killed 346 people. The aircraft’s new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was implicated in both accidents.
Ky says a return to service would be coordinated with the FAA as much as possible, but there could be a gap. "We may end up with a couple of weeks of time difference, but we are not talking about six months; we are talking about a delay which, if it happens, will be due mostly to process or administrative technicalities," he says.
Last week, Southwest Airlines – the world’s biggest operator of 737 aircraft - and Air Canada extended the cancellation of flights on their fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft through mid-February.