International Committee Begins Reviewing Boeing 737 MAX Certification — Here’s What We Know

Apr 29, 2019

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The Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) panel set up by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to assess the Boeing 737 MAX certification is ready to begin its work, the FAA announced in a statement last week.

Starting on Monday, the JATR will bring together experts from the FAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as international experts to review the automated flight systems that may be implicated in two recent 737 MAX plane crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, which killed 346 people.

International panel members are:

  • Civil Aviation Safety Authority – Australia
  • Agencia Nacional de Aviação Civil – Brazil
  • Transport Canada Civil Aviation
  • Civil Aviation Administration of China
  • European Aviation Safety Agency
  • Japan Civil Aviation Bureau
  • Directorate General of Civil Aviation – Indonesia
  • Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore
  • General Civil Aviation Authority – United Arab Emirates

The first meeting is scheduled for April 29. The group will be reviewing the 737 MAX’s flight control automation “including its design and pilots’ interaction with the system,” according to the FAA. The panel will also be looking for any additional upgrades or changes that the system may require in the future.

The review is expected to take about 90 days. With that time frame, it’s doubtful that the MAX will be returning to the air this summer. Meanwhile, airlines with MAX aircraft in their fleet will continue to feel the pinch as Boeing does its own PR work to gain back public trust in the aircraft.

United recently announced that for the month of April, it expects approximately 130 MAX-related cancellations, some 900 flights may be canceled in May, and 35-40 flight cancellations per day in June. Southwest said it has been forced to cancel more than 10,000 flights since the MAX variant of the 737 was grounded in March and Norwegian Airlines has estimated the grounding of its 18 MAX planes will cost it about 500 million Norwegian kroner ($57.7 million USD).

The MAX grounding also caused American Airlines to cancel approximately 1,200 flights in the first quarter of the year. The airline had been mum on the financial impact of the grounding so far, but announced Friday that it currently expects it “will impact our 2019 pre-tax earnings by approximately $350 million.”

The JATR panel isn’t the only group looking into the 737 MAX. According to Reuters, US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao named a number of industry experts to a blue ribbon commission to review the FAA’s process for certifying the 737 MAX, a process that took nearly five years. While the JART review has a much narrower scope of review, the US DOT review of the FAA process will likely take much longer.

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