Australia may ban Boeing 737 Max even if US gives it all-clear

The Guardian Finance 2 months ago

Australia’s air safety regulator may refuse permission for Boeing 737 Max planes to fly even if its US counterpart revokes an order grounding the aircraft, which has crashed twice, leaving 346 people dead.

A Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman said that the decision of the US Federal Aviation Administration would be an important factor in deciding whether to allow the Max to fly, but Casa would also take into account other information before making its decision.

“As the certifying authority for the aircraft type, obviously the FAA is central to the decision as to whether the aircraft flies or not but in this case due to the nature of it there is focus on the aircraft from authorities around the world,” the spokesman said.

He said Casa had been sharing information with other regulators including the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the Canadian regulator, Transport Canada, both of which have said they will do their own assessments of the Max.

“Those views will form part of our thinking when we make a decision,” he said.

He said there was no set timeframe in which Casa would make its call.

National aviation safety bodies usually accept the decision of a manufacturer’s home regulator – in this case the FAA – but the deadly Max crashes have raised concerns the US authority failed to properly oversee Boeing.

Global air safety authorities, including Casa, are due to meet on Monday in Montreal to discuss the Max issue at a meeting called by the FAA.

No Australian airlines currently fly the Max, but Virgin has 48 on order and Qantas has also expressed interest in buying the plane. Until Casa banned the planes from flying on 13 March it was used by on flights in and out of Australia by two overseas airlines, Fiji Airways and Singapore’s SilkAir.

The Max, which was Boeing’s fastest-selling model, was attractive to airlines because it has larger engines than the standard 737, giving it a longer range and greater capacity.

But the planes were grounded in March after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed in Kenya, killing all 157 people on board.

It was the second lethal Max crash in six months. In October 2018, a Lion Air flight from Jakarta to Bangka Island plummeted into the Java Sea, killing all 189 passengers and crew.

The day after the Ethiopian Airlines crash the FAA defended the airworthiness of the Max, but within two days it was forced to ground the fleet by Donald Trump.

Investigations have focused on an automated system that under some circumstances can compensate for the extra lift generated by the bigger engines by pushing the nose of the plane down.

The crashes have also raised concerns that engineering quality at Boeing may have suffered as the company pursued profits in competition with its European rival, Airbus.

In early April, the FAA set up a joint technical review team with other aviation authorities, including Europe’s Easa and Australia’s Casa.

A fortnight ago, the FAA said the team was “taking additional time to finish documenting its work”.

“We expect the group to submit its observations, findings, and recommendations in the coming weeks,” it said.

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