How Much Of The 737 MAX Grounding Can Be Attributed To COVID-19?
Ask the Editors: The Aviation Week Network invites our readers to submit questions to our editors and analysts. We’ll answer them, and if we can’t we’ll reach out to our wide network of experts for advice.
How much of the Boeing 737 MAX’s 20-month grounding can be attributed to the COVID-19 crisis?
Aviation Week Senior Air Transport and Safety Editor Sean Broderick answers:
While the pandemic’s complications did not help either Boeing or the regulators working on the 737 MAX return to service, COVID-19 was not a major contributor to the total downtime. The grounding’s duration was directly linked to the workload Boeing faced in reexamining elements of the aircraft’s original certification to address regulators’ concerns. This led to significant changes beyond the original maneuvering characteristics augmentation system flight-control law (AW&ST March 25-April 7, 2019, p. 16) that garnered most of the headlines.
That said, the pandemic affected at least one area. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) return-to-service parameters include restrictions on RNP AR (required navigation performance—authorization required) approaches because the regulator has not overseen certain tests it wants done. The tests will use a particular Boeing simulator in the U.S., but pandemic-related travel restrictions have kept EASA experts from making the trip. Until the work is done, EASA will keep the restrictions in place.