The UK’s decision to ban the MAX is, up to now, the most important development in the growing crisis of confidence in the safety of the MAX.
The UK and continental Europe’s regulators, EASA, are considered tough regulators who usually work in concert with the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration. That the UK authority is now ahead of the FAA is crucial. If EASA follows suit, the blow to the FAA and to Boeing will be huge.
China was the first country to ground the MAX, where nearly 100 MAXes were in service—more than any other place in the world.
There were some suggestions the move was politically motivated—a view LNA rejected, given the impact the grounding has on the airlines, including some that are state-owned. China also has been a supplier for decades to Boeing and Boeing last year opened a 737 completion center there.
In an interview published yesterday in 21 Century Economic Times of China, The CAAC deputy chief Li Jian said, in Mandarin, “CAAC has communicated with Boeing and the US FAA and tried to learn their intention of any potential regulatory actions before making the decision to ground the 737 MAX.
“From what we have learnt, the current problem with MCAS is very difficult to resolve without autopilot, as it would be too late to engage autopilot after the MCAS is activated.
“While there are solutions being proposed, the inability to engage in autopilot or disengage the MCAS without decimating the original protection feature make the situation very complex.”
The FAA is waiting for definitive information from the Ethiopian Airlines crash Sunday before making any decisions about the near-term fate of the MAX. The black boxes have been recovered; initial read out of the data is pending.
The FAA said yesterday it will issue an order next month about software upgrades to MCAS, the stall protection system in the MAX that is believed to be at the heart of last October’s Lion Air crash and which is already suspected in the Ethiopian accident. LNA reported early Monday morning that the upgrade had not been implemented. By the end of the day, the FAA made its announcement and Boeing confirmed the upgrade will be made.
But with more than 40% of the world’s MAX fleet already grounded or banned from entering airspace, and now with the action by the UK and Australia, pressure is mounting on the FAA to move now rather than wait.