Boeing 737 Max 8/Bloomberg
The European regulator’s concerns include the ability of pilots to handle an angle-of-attack failure during take-off or other critical phases of flight.
Thursday 12, September 2019
The European Aviation Safety Agency plans to send its own pilots to the US to conduct flight tests of Boeing’s grounded 737 Max jet before it is returned to service, reported Bloomberg.
The European regulator is conducting what it calls an independent review of the 737 Max before it’s returned to service after being grounded for almost six months since the second fatal crash involving a malfunctioning flight-control system.
Janet Northcote, EASA Spokesman, said, “European Union Aviation Safety Agency intends to conduct its own test flights separate from, but in full coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the test flights are not scheduled yet, the date will depend on the development schedule of Boeing.”
The crashes—one off the coast of Indonesia in October and a second in Ethiopia in March—were triggered by a malfunctioning sensor known as an angle-of-attack vane that measured whether the plane’s nose was pointed up or down relative to the oncoming air.
Boeing has two such sensors on all its aircraft, while other manufacturers, including the Blagnac, France-based Airbus, have used three or more to ensure more redundancy.
EASA is also examining whether Boeing’s use of two vanes is sufficient, says Northcote. The regulations do not necessarily require an additional one must be added. Safety could be addressed through improvement of the flight crew procedures and training, or through design enhancements or a combination of the two,” EASA said.
EASA said that two vanes are considered the bare minimum requirement to meet the safety objectives and in the agency’s experience an architecture with three vanes can more easily be found compliant with the regulation.
In the two 737 Max crashes, the erroneous data from failed angle-of-attack sensors prompted multiple cockpit alarms, including a false stall warning and altitude and airspeed gauges that did not agree with each other.
Requiring the addition of new equipment to the 737 Max—and possibly other Boeing models—would add a significant complication to returning the plane to service. If EASA broke with the US FAA on the issue, it could also roil the aviation manufacturing world, which in recent decades has striven to become more consistent between different governments.
The US, Europe, Canada and Brazil, which all have major airline manufacturing companies, have entered into multiple agreements to improve cooperation and to standardise their certification rules.