EASA Sets Schedule for 737 Max Validation Flights

 - August 27, 2020, 9:17 AM
A Ryanair Boeing 737 Max 8 sits parked in Renton, Washington, in October 2019. (Photo: Barry Ambrose)

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency expects to perform its flight tests on the Boeing 737 Max from Vancouver, Canada, starting the week of September 7, the agency confirmed Thursday. Plans also call for simulator testing to take place at London Gatwick Airport a week earlier, starting September 1, and for the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) to convene at Gatwick during the week beginning September 14.

The announcement comes a day after Transport Canada began its validation flight testing of the Max between Boeing Field in Seattle and Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. Transport Canada personnel boarded the airplane in Vancouver due to logistical considerations associated with Covid-19 travel restrictions and conducted the testing in U.S. airspace.

In a statement, EASA said the travel restrictions hindered the scheduling process in its case as well.

“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 noted. “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. These are a prerequisite for the European agency to approve the aircraft’s new design.”

Both the European and Canadian tests involve validation of data collected by the Federal Aviation Administration from June 29 to July 1 using a 737 Max 7.

Flight testing has centered largely on the airplane’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), a malfunction of which led to the twin crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed 346 people and the Max’s now 17-month grounding by global aviation authorities.