The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will keep Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 grounded until it performs its own safety tests on the jet. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) faces scrutiny for certifying the plane.
“I can assure you that we will not let the plane fly on our side until we find acceptable answers,” agency head Patrick Ky told a European Parliament hearing on Tuesday.
The Ethiopians refused to send their ‘black boxes’ to the US, despite being an American plane, manufactured by a US company. Instead, the data was sent to France for investigation.
Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 jetliner has been grounded around the world in the wake of two fatal disasters. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 nosedived into a field shortly after takeoff last Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the sea last October, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
Investigators say that there are “clear similarities” between both accidents. In both cases, the plane’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) is believed to be responsible.
MCAS counteracts an aerodynamic problem that causes the plane’s nose to drift upwards in flight by manipulating the tail to keep the plane level. However, the system relies on readings from a nose-mounted sensor, and can overcompensate if those readings are false, pushing the aircraft’s nose downward and into a dive.
The system was certified as safe by the FAA, and regulatory agencies around the world followed the US agency’s lead, carrying out only minor tests of their own on the aircraft.
However, a group of current and former engineers with Boeing and the FAA claim that the FAA delegated the testing to Boeing itself, and trusted the Seattle firm’s conclusions.
Furthermore, the engineers claim that Boeing downplayed potential dangers with the MCAS, did not train pilots to work with the system, and cut corners to bring the plane to market quicker.
The US Department of Transportation is now investigating the FAA’s approval of the aircraft, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. Federal prosecutors have reportedly issued a subpoena to at least one person involved in the development of the 737 MAX.
The FAA has said that fixing the 737 MAX’s software issues will take “months.” Ky, however, told the EU hearing that the EASA will not trust the FAA’s assessment this time around.
“We want to make sure that the upgrades are safe not only in terms of architecture, design and validation, but are also accompanied by the appropriate training requirements,” he said.