Boeing 737 Max Set for Key European Approval Step Next Week
(Bloomberg) -- Europe’s aviation safety regulator is preparing to take a major step toward approving the return of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter.
Publication of a so-called proposed airworthiness directive by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency would trigger a 28-day public consultation, putting the Max on track for final clearance by year-end or in early 2021.
EU approval would mark a milestone in Boeing’s effort to return the Max to service outside the U.S., after the Federal Aviation Administration granted final clearance for the jet’s return this week. The green light from EASA, which sought additional safety measures beyond what the FAA required, would allow Boeing to begin delivering already-built planes again in a region with major customers including Ryanair Holdings Plc.
“It’s obviously great news for Boeing and should mean they kick off 2021 with an airplane that’s flying in fleets again,” said George Ferguson, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “That’s the path to recovery.”
Boeing fell 2.2% to $201.18 at 2:19 p.m. in New York. The shares advanced 42% this month through Thursday, the biggest gain on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, buoyed by progress in coronavirus vaccines and the Max’s return.
Backing by European regulators is seen as key to Boeing’s effort to gain global support for the aircraft, after the Max crisis damaged the FAA’s reputation as the leader in air safety. Regulators in the United Arab Emirates are likely to follow suit without conducting their own flight tests, should U.S. and European officials clear the plane for commercial use, Bloomberg News reported in September.
EASA filed procedural documents on Friday that are a prerequisite to the proposed airworthiness directive’s publication. The agency has said it expects to publish the proposed directive by the end of this month.
The regulator’s chief, Patrick Ky, signaled in October that he was satisfied with the changes Boeing made to the plane after two crashes within five months killed 346 people, leading to the global grounding of the 737 Max fleet in March 2019.
Asia Regulators Prepare to Clear Boeing Max After FAA Assent
The EU’s approval would clear Boeing to begin delivering the Max outside the U.S., a critical move toward unlocking about $12 billion in cash that’s tied up in hundreds of jetliners built during the global grounding.
Transport Canada indicated this week that it was poised to lift the grounding soon. As long as the flying ban is in place in that country, U.S. airlines can’t operate the upgraded 737 over Canadian air space.
Authorities in Europe, Canada and Brazil worked closely with U.S. regulators to review the technical aspects of the Max, which Stephen Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, called the most scrutinized aircraft in history.
China, the first nation to ground the aircraft, has revealed little about how its review is progressing. Regulators there are expected to grant their approval of Boeing’s redesigned systems in the first half of 2021, Myles Walton, an aerospace analyst with UBS Group AG, said in a report this week.
With the Max’s return gaining momentum from U.S. and European regulators, the Chinese are likely to follow soon, said Bloomberg Intelligence’s Ferguson.
“It makes it difficult for the Chinese to resist for too long,” he said. “The two greatest regulators in the world have said, ‘Yes this airplane is fine to fly.’”
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